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Edwards announces looser COVID-19 restrictions in Louisiana

(The Center Square) – Louisiana will shift into a less restrictive set of rules to help control the spread of COVID-19 after the current executive order expires Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday.

The new regulations, which will remain in effect for 28 days, are similar to the Phase 3 White House-approved restrictions that were in place in the fall. Edwards said he was confident the state was ready to make the change, but he urged residents to continue taking precautions to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and to get vaccinated against the illness as soon as they are able.

“We’re certainly moving in the right direction,” Edwards said. “We still have a lot of work to do before we get out of this pandemic.”

The statewide mask mandate will remain in place. Most businesses will be limited to 75% of their full capacity, compared with 50% under the modified Phase 2 currently in place.

Sporting events will be allowed at 50% capacity, up from 25%. Capacity restrictions on churches will be lifted, though maintaining at least 6 feet of space between people who don’t live together still will be “strongly encouraged.”

Gyms and fitness centers still will be restricted to 50% capacity. Bars throughout the state can open for indoor service at 25% capacity, at least, and up to 50% in parishes where the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive is less than 5%. Alcohol service still must end by 11 p.m. and customers still are supposed to be seated.

Indoor live music will be allowed at venues that meet the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s standards, but audiences must remain seated. Fairs and festivals also will be allowed under certain circumstances. Indoor events will be limited to 50% capacity up to 250 people.

Providers have performed more than one million COVID-19 vaccinations in Louisiana, according to state officials, and about 14% of state residents have received at least one dose.

Louisiana officials expect this week to get 37,000 doses of the newly available Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose to get the full effect. However, state leaders were told Tuesday not to expect another Johnson & Johnson allocation for the next two weeks, Edwards said.

David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for the Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.