During a meeting with reporters on May 18, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson unveiled plans for the reopening of city services and departments in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of the city’s offices and services have remained closed or had limited access since mid-March.

The reopening will be a phased process based on positive testing for COVID-19.

What Is the Timeline for Reopening City Services in Savannah?

The “Safer Services Re-Opening Plan” calls for a gradual reopening of the city’s services based on priority. Before each phase begins, rates of COVID-19 testing, hospital admissions, and deaths must be stable or falling for 14 straight days.

  • Phase 1: High priority services. This will include residential recycling and yard waste services. City workplaces will also be prepared for the return of employees who are working from home.
  • Phase 2: City employees who have been working remotely will begin their return to their offices. Social distancing (maintaining a six-foot space between people), face coverings, and temperature checks will be necessary for those returning to their workplace.
  • Phase 3: Public access to city buildings will be available for limited hours. Employees who have worked from home during the pandemic will continue to report back to their workplace. Although many offices will be open to the public during this phase, the normal hours of operation will be limited. Social distancing, face masks, and temperature checks will be required for all staff and visitors.
  • Phase 4: City offices and buildings return to regular hours. Once we reach this stage, all city facilities should be operating on their normal schedule. Social distancing will still be required for all staff and visitors.
  • Phase 5: Pre-COVID-19 status. City buildings and facilities return to their normal operations with no restrictions.

Again, before each phase of the reopening can begin, there must be 14 straight days of improving COVID-19 data in Chatham County. 

Is COVID-19 Declining in Chatham County?

Thus far, no. 

As of May 27, the number of COVID-19 cases in Chatham County increased to 476. Of those, 109 were admitted to the hospital. The COVID-19 death total for Chatham County appeared to be holding steady at 23.

For the state overall, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. On May 27, Georgia experienced 655 new cases; bringing the overall total to 44,638 confirmed reports of COVID-19.

The number of COVID-19 patients who died in Georgia had jumped to 1,933 – an increase of 38 new deaths from just days earlier. 

What Are the Rules for Private Businesses?

The eyes of the country have been on Georgia since it became the first state to re-open during the pandemic. While there has been a slow increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the predicted surge in deaths and hospital admissions has not occurred.

Before re-opening, business owners had to do the following:

  • Require social distancing among staff and customers. 
  • Consider using touchless infrared thermometers to check employee temperatures.
  • Allow only 10 customers for every 300-square feet of the business.
  • Sanitizing all tables and other commonly used items before each use.
  • Posting COVID-19 signs at each entrance.
  • Not allowing people to gather in waiting areas.

During the Memorial Day weekend, the Savannah mayor went along with the Savannah Police Department’s beverage compliance team to make sure the social distancing guidelines were being followed.

Six businesses were given warnings, while two were given citations for misdemeanors.

Can I Get Workers’ Compensation if I Get COVID-19 at Work?

In order to protect their employees going forward – and guard against potential Savannah workers’ compensation claims – business owners and managers are encouraged to follow guidelines set up by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

These include:

  • Providing cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers to employees
  • Limiting the number of people in common areas (elevators, break rooms, conference rooms, etc.) 
  • Requiring face masks to be worn throughout their places of business
  • Installing plexiglass shields for employees who must interact with the public throughout the workday.

Although you may be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits because of COVID-19, it will not be easy. As with any work-related injury, you’d have to be able to prove you became infected with COVID-19 while on the job or while performing a work-related function.

Because the virus is airborne and is easily transmitted, being able to pinpoint the exact moment and location of when you became infected with COVID-19 would be difficult.

If you have COVID-19 and feel you may have been infected while working, your best option is to hire an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation claims.