Louisiana has increased the maximum number of customers allowed inside restaurants and bars, effective tomorrow, March 3. In a press conference Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that restaurants statewide can increase capacity to 75 percent, and that bars statewide, regardless of the local COVID-19 positivity rate, can open for indoor service at 25 percent capacity. In parishes with a lower than five percent virus positivity rate, bars can increase indoor capacity to 50 percent, up from 25 percent.
Live music will be allowed indoors, in compliance with “extensive” guidelines that will be made available to business owners, the governor said, but that he did not name on Tuesday. Indoor meetings and event venues can increase capacity to 50 percent, with a cap of 250 people. Outdoor events can operate at up to 50 percent of their capacity, but with no cap on maximum number of people.
Louisiana has been in “modified phase 2” since November 25, when Edwards ordered bars closed for indoor service in parishes with a higher than five percent COVID-19 positivity rate and limited restaurants to half capacity indoors. The order was first extended on January 12, then again in February. The move to a “modified phase 3” comes as the positivity rate statewide is about five percent, Gov. Edwards said Tuesday, with hospitalizations, case counts, and other “gating criteria” all decreasing.
A spokesperson for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said previously Tuesday that officials will review the governor’s new executive order before making any updates to city guidelines. Last week, New Orleans increased the limit for gatherings at seating at restaurants — restaurants, bars, and breweries can seat up to 15 people at a table, up from 10. The limit on gathering sizes for parties and events also increased, from 10 people indoors and 25 people outside to 75 people indoors and 150 outside. Bars in New Orleans were allowed to resume limited indoor service on February 19, just days after they were shut down entirely for the five days leading up to and on Mardi Gras. Restaurants can operate at half capacity inside and full capacity outside, with masking and social distancing requirements, and along with bars, can stay open until 11 p.m., per state guidelines. [UPDATE: TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 4:55 p.m.: New Orleans will not move into phase 3 with the rest of the state.]
State health director Dr. Joe Kanter warned Tuesday that Louisiana is “not out of the woods by any means. Do not equate the relaxed measures with there being zero risk.”
Gov. Edwards’s order will be in place through at least March 31.
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