State returns to Phase 3, order expires March 31

Staff Report

BATON ROUGE – A steady drop in COVID cases and hospitalizations, coupled with widespread immunizations, prompted Gov. John Bel Edward to relax restrictions to Phase 3 mitigation.

Gov. John Bel Edwards extended COVID measures.

Edwards announced the executive order during a press conference last week. The order expires March 31.

His announcement came after a three-month span of Phase 2 restrictions that took effect in late November. Single-day case totals during the span between November and January reached record highs, while the total number of hospitalizations during that period hovered around the 2,000 mark.

The worst single-day surge occurred Jan. 8, when the Louisiana Department of Health reported 3,372 new cases and 105 deaths. On the same day, COVID hospitalizations reached 2,060, including 220 patients on ventilators.

Edwards brought Louisiana back to Phase 2 on Nov. 24, when hospitalizations soared to 1,077.

During the past month, case totals have decreased to 1,000 or below, while hospitalizations have dipped below 700.

Edwards remains concerned about the UK variant, which could lead to another spike.

“We’re currently moving the right direction, as we have been for several weeks now.,” he said. “While we’re doing better and easing restrictions, no one should think we’re out of the woods, especially with the variant.”

He urged residents to take the vaccination as soon as they eligible to receive it.

Phase 3 rules include:

  • Places of worship can open at full capacity, but social distancing remains strongly encouraged.
  • Restaurants and most other businesses will be allowed to expand from 50 percent occupancy to 75 percent.
  • Bars can open at 25 percent occupancy indoors in all parishes, or 50 percent if their parish has seen 5 percent of less percent positivity.
  • Event centers will be able to host gatherings of 50 percent capacity of 250 people.
  • Gyms will stay open at 50 percent rather than 75 percent occupancy. Live music will be allowed indoors if bars follow rules laid out by the state fire marshal.
  • Indoor events will be limited to 250 people or 50 percent capacity, and outdoor events will be limited to 50 percent of capacity of event space.
  • Live music will be allowed indoors, but spectators must remain at their seats. For information on the regulations, visit www.opensafely.la.gov.

The mask mandate will remain in effect.