Some Bars Can Reopen And Businesses Can Let More Customers Inside In Louisiana's Phase 3

Sep 11, 2020
Originally published on September 11, 2020 5:09 pm

Louisiana’s churches and businesses will be able to expand their capacity and some bars will be allowed to reopen under new restrictions in Phase 3 of Louisiana’s reopening plan announced by Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday.

“These things really only work if we continue to, and quite frankly we need more people to, wear their masks,” he said.

The governor also said this is likely the last move to loosen restrictions until the pandemic is over, which will happen when a viable vaccine has been widely distributed.

“There really isn’t a lot of room for movement forward until we get past the pandemic,” he said, “because until such time as social distancing isn’t required, how do you ever go to 100 percent [capacity]?”

The biggest change will allow bars to reopen in parishes with low rates of new COVID-19 cases. In parishes with a percent positivity rate below 5 over 14 days, local governments will be able to opt-in to opening bars at 25 percent capacity.

Those parishes are Plaquemines, Bienville, St. John the Baptist, Jefferson Davis and Orleans.

New Orleans, notably, will not be among those governments to opt-in. Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced Thursday that the city will remain in Phase 2.

Bars will be allowed table seating and service only, and will have to end alcohol sales at 10 p.m. Alcohol sales will also end at 10 p.m. for other businesses, including restaurants and casinos. Other rules for casinos will not change in Phase 3.

Salons, restaurants and other businesses that have already been allowed to reopen will now be allowed to operate at a maximum capacity of 75 percent. Social gatherings, including weddings and parties, will be capped at 50 percent capacity both indoors and outdoors, to a maximum of 250 people.

Sporting events will be allowed in Phase 3, including college football, and capacity will be capped at 25 percent, with no alcohol sales allowed.

Edwards also announced a new pilot program to allow some visitation at nursing homes. Under the program, families will be able to visit loved ones in certain nursing homes located in parishes that have a lower than 5 percent positive rate for new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days. The Louisiana Department of Health is expected to release more details on the plan in the coming days.

The new rules apply for 28 days, until Oct. 9.

Edwards said positive trends in COVID-19 data allowed the move, but that he still had “concerns about what isn’t yet reflected in the data,” including the impact of schools and colleges opening, the displacement of people as a result of Hurricane Laura, and the drop in testing after the storm.

Dr. Alex Billioux, the assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, said there’s been a dramatic uptick in the number of 18- to 21-year-olds testing positive for COVID-19, which he attributed to the reopening of universities and colleges.

Republican state lawmakers and business groups have pressured Edwards for months to ease business restrictions.

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) said Thursday that it was “past time” for the state to move into Phase 3 of economic recovery and he was encouraged by Edwards’ decision to do so.

“The people of Louisiana have done exactly what the governor has asked of them over the past six months, while thousands of businesses across the state have shuttered and been forced to lay off their workers,” Schexnayder said. “It’s now time for our state government to do its part to get our economy rolling in the right direction again.”

The governor announced another 844 cases of COVID-19. Louisiana passed the 5,000-death mark from the pandemic on Friday. The Louisiana Department of Health reported a total of 5,034 people have died of the virus since the pandemic’s outbreak.

Edwards also highlighted that the number of people sheltered by the state after Hurricane Laura continues to grow.

He also said the $300-a-week unemployment benefits supplied by FEMA is ending. The last check for recipients will be dated from Sept. 5, but there will be a lag in people receiving that money because of the time it takes the state to apply for the funds.

tably, will not be among those governments. Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced Thursday that the city will remain in Phase 2.

Bars will be allowed table seating and service only, and will have to end alcohol sales at 10 p.m. Alcohol sales will also end at 10 p.m. for other businesses, including restaurants and casinos. Other rules for casinos will not change in Phase 3.

Salons, restaurants and other businesses that have already been allowed to reopen will now be allowed to operate at a maximum capacity of 75 percent. Social gatherings, including weddings and parties, will be capped at 50 percent capacity both indoors and outdoors, to a maximum of 250 people.

Sporting events will be allowed in Phase 3, including college football, and capacity will be capped at 25 percent, with no alcohol sales allowed.

Edwards also announced a new pilot program to allow some visitation at nursing homes. Under the program, families will be able to visit loved ones in certain nursing homes located in parishes that have a lower than 5 percent positive rate for new COVID-19 cases over the last 28 days. The Louisiana Department of Health is expected to release more details on the plan in the coming days.

The new rules apply for 28 days, until Oct. 9.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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