Gov. John Bel Edwards Sept. 1, 2020

Gov. John Bel Edwards in Sept. 1 file photo. 

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Gov. John Bel Edwards released details of his plan Friday to move Louisiana into Phase 3 reopening.

Edwards said businesses will be allowed to reopen at 75% occupancy.

"What I have decided to do is that we’re gonna have bars remain closed for on premises consumption for parishes with high incidences of COVID-19," Edwards said.

He said the recommendation comes from White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Edwards said bars in parishes with a 5% positive rate or lower for two consecutive weeks can reopen under local government permission. They can have 25% capacity, up to 50 people, indoors. Social distancing is still required both inside and outside. Patrons must be seated and must order at the table. Service will end at 10 p.m. before bar closure at 11 p.m.

Only five parishes would meet that criteria as of Friday, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) website. Those include Orleans, Plaquemines, Jefferson Davis, Bienville, and St. John the Baptist parishes.

The department of health is expected to update these parish-wide infection rates every two weeks. The next update is scheduled to be released on Sept. 16.

Indoor gatherings, like weddings and birthday parties, can operate with 50% capacity up to 250 people.

Live music will still not be allowed indoors.

Businesses can operate at 75%. Edwards specifically mentioned restaurants, churches, salons, spas, gyms.

Nursing homes will still not allow visitors, but the LDH is working on a new program to facilitate outdoor visits in parishes with under 5% positivity in their testing.

"This is obviously a very delicate situation," he said. "The folks in the Department of Health are putting forth great effort to make sure we can do this is in a sensible way."

Casinos remain 50% capacity, 75% gaming position 

Sporting events will operate at 25% capacity with social distancing. No alcohol sales.

Mask mandate remains.

Edwards said the Phase 3 order is currently scheduled to stay in place for 28 days, expiring on Oct. 9.

Edwards said that moving to Phase 3 does not lift all restrictions. He continues to encourage social distancing, masks and hand washing.

The governor said this will likely be the last major change in coronavirus restrictions for Louisiana until a vaccine is released.

Edwards said that, as the state moves to Phase 3, he is most concerned about the impact the Labor Day holiday will have on a possible surge in cases, especially after there was a big increase after the Memorial Day weekend.

"If you just asked me to point to one thing it is the potential for Labor Day to disrupt the progress," Edwards said.

Since the conclusion of the mandatory stay-at-home order, which began on March 22 and ended on April 13, Louisiana has been gradually moving through the reopening process. 

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Thursday she would not be lifting any of the city's coronavirus restrictions.
"The city of New Orleans is in Phase 2 and we will remain in place, we will continue to let the data drive us but where the data has driven us today is to ensure our kids are returning to school starting next week," Cantrell said. 
Cantrell's announcement was not a surprise. The mayor has said several times in recent days that she planned to wait to loosen restrictions until officials could gauge how the reopening schools for in-person learning, the beginning of college classes and the influx of evacuees from Hurricane Laura impacted the city's infection rates.
According to instructions detailed by the White House, Phase 3 of the reopening process would involve the following measures:
  • Vulnerable persons to resume public interactions with physical distancing so as to minimize exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed.
  • Those who are considered 'low risk' will be encouraged to consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.
  • Most employers will be allowed to resume the unrestricted staffing of their job sites.
  • Guests will once again be allowed to enter senior care facilities and hospitals, though those who interact with residents and patients must be diligent regarding hygiene.
  • Large venues such as sit-down dining restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues, and places of worship will be allowed to operate under limited physical distancing protocols.
  • Gyms will be free to remain open as long as they adhere to standard sanitation protocols.
  • And, bars can operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable.

Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes each made separate pleas to Edwards last week to allow Louisiana parishes where the virus is under control to open up before the rest of the state. 

But experts warned that such a piecemeal approach could be risky in a state that just suppressed its second major wave of infections and urged caution amid a series of converging events — including school openings and displacements from Hurricane Laura — that are likely to cause another rise in cases.


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