Edwards extends Modified Phase Two Order

Staff Report
Gov. John Bel Edwards extended COVID measures.

The continued spike in positive COVID cases and fears of another post-holiday surge prompted the three-week extension of the Phase Two Order Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Dec. 23.

He imposed the extension amid hospitalization levels the state has not seen since July. The extended order will remain in place until Jan. 13.

Edwards also declared an emergency for elections in February, March and April, per the request from Secretary of State John Schroder.

COVID hospitalizations totaled 1,530 at the start of this week – a drop of 103 from Christmas Eve. But the tally remains perilously high, Edwards said.

In Iberville Parish, the week began with a total of 2,362 confirmed cases, based on 26,686 tests. The death toll reached 71 on Dec. 27.

On a slightly encouraging note, the percent positivity for Iberville Parish dropped from 9.0 to 7.6 – a 15.6 drop between Dec. 3 and Dec. 16. The Louisiana Department of Health was set to release the latest positivity percentages on Dec. 30, after press time.

“While we have seen minor improvements, no one should feel good about our current COVID situation in Louisiana,” he said. “We have too many new cases, too many people in the hospital and, sadly, too many Louisianans continue to die of this illness.

Just this week, we reported the highest number of deaths since July,” Edwards said. “Aggressive mitigation is recommended by Louisiana’s public health experts and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and it is absolutely critical that all of our people take every action they can to slow the spread of COVID. All Louisianans are at risk, but those who are 65 or older or who have health conditions that make it more likely that they will have severe COVID complications should be incredibly careful in the coming days and weeks and should avoid any indoor place other than their home where there is not universal masking.”

He urged residents to avoid large gathering for the New Year’s holiday, particularly those events in indoor settings.

“I cannot stress this enough: the holidays this year simply cannot look the same as they have in previous years,” Edwards said. “Having holiday parties where people from various households gather together, especially indoors, is dangerous and could lead to the spread of COVID and the loss of family members and friends. This year has been tragic and sad, and we finally have the hope of better therapeutics and a vaccine, which means the end of the pandemic is in our sights. Now is not the time to let down our guard simply because it is Christmas or New Year’s Eve.”

Here’s a rundown of the restrictions in the current mandate:

Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate remains in place. Louisiana’s COVID-19 restrictions include the below:

  • All Louisianans are encouraged to avoid gatherings of individuals not part of their households.
  • All businesses, private and public sectors, are encouraged to use remote work where they can.
  • All restaurants are limited to 50% of their indoor capacity. Restaurants should move as much dining outdoors as they can. Social distancing is required.
  • For bars in parishes above 5% positivity, bars are closed to indoor sales and consumption but open for outdoor consumption at tables only and at 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people. Social distancing is required. Take-out and delivery will still be available.
  • Retail businesses may open at 50% capacity, except for essential businesses, as defined by federal guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
  • Gyms may be open at 50% of their capacity.
  • Places of worship will remain at a maximum of 75% of their capacity or the number of people who can physically distance with at least six feet between each immediate household, whichever is less.
  • Barber and beauty shops, and nail salons may open at 50% of their capacity.
  • Movie theaters may open at 50% of their capacity.
  • Indoor gatherings at event/receptions centers are limited to 25% capacity or up to 75 individuals.
  • Outdoor gatherings at event/reception centers are limited to 25% capacity or up to 150 individuals when strict physical distancing is not possible.
  • All sporting events will be capped at 25% capacity.