The rules and regulations surrounding Phase Two of Louisiana’s reopening were set to expire this Friday Aug. 7.
However, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday that Phase Two in Louisiana will be extended, including bar closures, the statewide mask mandate, and gathering size limit, for another 21 days through August 28.
Edwards stated that while the data shows the state is “moving in right direction,” he also indicated that it’s too early to tell if “we’ve changed trajectory.”
The rolling average number of new coronavirus cases daily in Louisiana has been falling over the past two weeks, but the state still is seeing more than 1,800 new cases confirmed per day during that time.
The decision comes as Louisiana’s governor joined the leaders of Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia on Tuesday in announcing an interstate compact to buy 3 million rapid-use coronavirus tests.
“Rapid access to testing is crucial in our collective fight against COVID-19, which is why I am grateful to join these other governors in a collaborative effort to purchase testing supplies and help identify outbreaks more quickly, while improving the turnaround time for test results,” Edwards said in a statement.
Even as Louisiana’s governor intends to keep the emergency coronavirus orders in place, at least three pending lawsuits in state and federal court are seeking to have some of the rules thrown out as overstepping the governor’s authority.
The regulations limit restaurants to 50% capacity for in-person dining, restrict bars to takeout and delivery only and place occupancy limits on gyms, salons and other businesses deemed nonessential. Face coverings are required for anyone age 8 and older, with medical exceptions. Indoor gatherings above 50 people are banned.
Edwards and public health officials have suggested that the mask mandate and bar restrictions in particular have helped shrink the number of new cases and that all the restrictions must be maintained to slow the spread of the virus.
Critics say Edwards is infringing on personal freedom with the face covering requirement and crippling Louisiana’s economy with his business restrictions.
Louisiana’s health department says 3,937 state residents have died from the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. The state has seen more than 124,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since early March, according to the health department, with more than 74,000 presumed recovered.