Louisiana to move to Phase 3 of coronavirus restrictions, bars allowed to open statewide

By WBOK Staff

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

After more than three months of heightened restrictions, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday said he will loosen coronavirus rules to move the state into Phase 3 of the reopening plan, allowing bars to open statewide and letting most businesses operate at 75% capacity. 

The move is the second time since the pandemic began that Edwards put the state in the third phase of his reopening plan, after moving backwards and imposing more restrictions in late November. It comes as cases and hospitalizations continue to drop in most parts of the state. 

“We’re currently moving in the right direction and have been for several weeks now," Edwards said at a Tuesday media briefing. 

The new rules take effect Wednesday and last for 28 days, Edwards said. 

Restaurants and most other businesses will be allowed to expand from 50% occupancy to 75%.

Bars will be able to open at 25% occupancy indoors in all parishes, or 50% if their parish has seen 5% or less percent positivity--the share of COVID tests coming back positive. Event centers will be allowed to host gatherings of 50% occupancy or 250 people. 

The rules on bars are less restrictive than the previous iteration of Phase 3, but gyms will remain at 50% instead of 75% occupancy. Live music will be allowed indoors if bars follow rules laid out by the state fire marshal. 

Events held indoors will be limited to 250 people or 50% capacity, and outdoor events will be limited to 50% of capacity of the event space. 

The state's mask mandate will remain in effect, with Edwards cautioning people to continue following precautions, especially as more transmissible variants spread throughout the state.

Edwards put the higher restrictions in place in late November amid a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations that was exacerbated by the holidays. 

COVID hospitalizations have dropped to below 630 this week from a recent peak of over 2,000 in January. On Nov. 24, when Edwards ratcheted restrictions up, hospitalizations were at 1,077. 

Ochsner Health System executives told reporters Monday it has seen a decrease in the number of COVID patients at its facilities, though community testing is also down. 

State officials have said some of the declines, especially in hospitalizations, are likely the result of elderly and other vulnerable Louisianans getting vaccinated.


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