NEW ORLEANS (KTAL/AP) — Bars in a handful of Louisiana parishes will be allowed to re-open under new, looser coronavirus restrictions announced Friday by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Bars in the state have been closed since July unless they have licenses to operate as restaurants. Under the guidelines announced Friday, bars in parishes where the percentage of positive COVID-19 is 5% or below for four weeks can open if parish leaders give the OK, Edwards said.
Dr. Alex Billioux, an assistant state health secretary, estimated the criteria currently apply in only five of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, which are the equivalent of a county in other states. Bar openings won’t happen in New Orleans, where Mayor LoToya Cantrell is maintaining stricter rules, or in the state’s other large cities, which are in parishes that don’t yet meet the 5% threshold.
Bars that are allowed to open will have to shut down alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m. Those under 21 will not be allowed in bars.
Among other statewide “Phase Three” restrictions announced Friday: Restaurants, spas, salons, gyms and other businesses can operate at 75% capacity — up from 50% — if they can maintain social distancing.
A statewide mask mandate will remain in place.
- Bars with less than 5% positivity will be allowed to open to up to 25% capacity, with up to 50 people indoors, with table seating only, and also only 50 customers allowed outdoors. Drinks must be ordered and delivered at table. Bar service ends at 10 pm and patrons must be cleared by 11 pm. Bars will only be 21+.
- Live music continues to be banned.
- Social gatherings indoors remain limited to 50% capacity and to a maximum of 250 people.
- Outdoor crowds are limited to 50% capacity and 250 people if social distancing can’t be maintained.
- Casinos will stay at 50% capacity and 75% of gaming positions.
- Nursing home and hospital visits will remain prohibited in Phase 3, but Gov. Edwards announced a pilot program for an outdoor visitation program, which will be allowed in parishes with 5% positivity or less, and zero cases in the last 14 days.
- Sporting events like college & high school football, etc. will operate at a lesser capacity of 25% with social distancing required an without alcohol sales.
Click here to read the updated Phase 3 order.
Click here to read the extension of emergency provisions that is also extended to October 9.
The latest plans were released on the day the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Louisiana surpassed 5,000. Hospitalizations, however, continue to drop, totaling 723 in Friday’s figures. There had been nearly 2,000 hospitalized in early April, when the state was a national hot spot for infections. There was a second peak of 1,600 in late July during a resurgence of the disease. Other factors — including a percentage of positive tests consistently below 10 percent, and a lower rate of COVID-like illnesses reported to authorities — prompted the governor’s decision to loosen restrictions.
In New Orleans, Cantrell’s bar-closure order is tougher than the state’s. Bars closed under the state order can offer takeout or pickup service. In New Orleans, takeout drinks are banned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.