Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday lifted some coronavirus-related capacity restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms, retail outlets and other venues, citing a steady decline in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations across the state. However, the governor emphasized that he is leaving in place guidelines that require people to wear face masks and keep a healthy distance from one another.
He cited the state’s low COVID-19 numbers as he lifted those restrictions. There were 363 people in Louisiana hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday — the lowest number since March 28, 2020. Daily case numbers and percent positivity have also been trending downward since February.
“We basically have flattened out in that range,” Edwards said of hospitalizations, which has been the data set guiding many of the governor’s actions..
According to the new rules Edwards announced Tuesday, bars can now operate without capacity limitations, and over-the-bar service is permitted, though guests must remain seated at tables and 6-foot social distancing is required. The 11 p.m. restriction on alcohol sales is also lifted.
The capacity limit for events and group gatherings has increased from 250 to 500 people or 50% capacity. There are to be no capacity restrictions for outdoor events, so long as attendees maintain 6-foot social distancing, the governor said.
Bars have been under unique restrictions since Edwards first ordered them closed on July 11. The Louisiana Restaurant Association seemed to welcome the announcement, relaying the news to its members early Tuesday afternoon and encouraging them to promote vaccinations to their employees.
The governor attributed the state’s positive trend toward fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations to vaccinations, the mask mandate and social distancing.
“We believe a majority of our particularly vulnerable residents are now protected through vaccinations,” he said.
Edwards also announced that Louisiana expects to receive 300,000 vaccine doses next week — double the amount of weekly doses the state currently receives.
The governor reminded the public to opt for outdoor activities rather than indoor activities.
“Three words: mask, distance, vaccinate,” he said.