Gov. Edwards eases capacity restrictions for businesses but warns ‘we’re not out of the woods’

Gov. Edwards eases capacity restrictions for businesses but warns ‘we’re not out of the woods’
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announces an easing of restrictions on most of the state's businesses during a news conference on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Baton Rouge, La. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards held a news conference about the state’s response to the coronavirus Tuesday, March 30.

Gov. Edwards announced that he will be lifting capacity limitations for many of the state’s businesses but the statewide mask mandate will remain.

“We did it, because we’ve had a framework for making these decisions since the very beginning. And it’s on the gating criteria in combination with the baseline numbers. But at the end of the day we’re trying to be consistent, to do what we can. To always seek to strike the right balance between lives on the one hand, livelihoods on the other. I think we’ve done that in this case,” said Edwards.

The governor will issue a new proclamation Wednesday, March 31 that will stay in effect until April 28.

Specific capacity limitations for restaurants, bars, gyms, and retail settings will no longer be in place, he said. Bars, in particular, can stay open later than 11 p.m. as long as they adhere to local ordinances.

Bar patrons must still be seated at a socially distanced table, the governor said.

Gov. Edwards said businesses and venues that host large indoor gatherings, like reception halls, will be remain capped at 50% of their capacity, with a maximum gathering size of 500 people.

“At this point in the pandemic, our three best tools for slowing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our hospitals operational are vaccinations, masks and distance,” Gov. Edwards said. “Right now, we have fewer people hospitalized with COVID-19 than we did this time last year, and we have a greatly improved supply of three highly effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, which are available to everyone 16 and older in Louisiana. While COVID-19 and its variants remain a major public health risk, using the tools of vaccination, masking and distancing, we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. At least 20 states and one region of Louisiana are experiencing an increase in cases and hospitalizations, likely because of the U.K. variant. We aren’t yet out of the woods.”

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Business owners who wish to view the coronavirus mitigation measures deemed necessary by the Louisiana Department of Health and the State Fire Marshal and can on OpenSafely.La.gov by CLICKING HERE

The governor’s address comes one day after all Louisiana residents 16 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Edwards also announced Louisiana will soon receive a larger-than-normal shipment of the vaccine, approximately 300,000 doses, from the federal government next week.

“Vaccination is the best way we have to put this pandemic in our rearview mirror. While we work to vaccinate even more of our neighbors, now more than ever it is critical that people wear facemasks when they are in public and keep six feet of social distance between them and anyone who isn’t in their immediate household,” Gov. Edwards said. “Today we are taking an important step forward, but all of us play a role in making sure our cases don’t spike again. Get your vaccine now that it’s your turn and help your friends and family members get their shots as well. Working together, we can bring back Louisiana.”

The governor also asked Louisiana residents to refrain from double booking vaccine appointments. Hospital administrators tell him double booking of vaccine appointments is becoming a problem.

Residents are asked to only make one appointment for COVID-19 vaccination so healthcare providers can be prepared and “no shows” are limited.

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As of Monday, March 29, more than 720,000 residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, meaning they have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna-manufactured vaccine or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

On a positive note, Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health announced Louisiana has reduced the number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus down to 363 patients.

“This is a big thing,” Dr. Kanter said.

He said the state is in a much better place in terms of coronavirus hospitalizations than it was weeks ago.

Louisiana is at a historic low, during the course of the pandemic, for the number of COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents, the Louisiana Department of Health also announced Tuesday. Officials say 80% of nursing home residents have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, as you can see in this chart below.

80% of nursing home residents in Louisiana are vaccinated. The result is an all-time low in nursing home COVID deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
80% of nursing home residents in Louisiana are vaccinated. The result is an all-time low in nursing home COVID deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health)

The results from the chart, an all-time low in deaths from coronavirus in those nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Governor Edwards is hopeful that the whole state can mirror those figures one day soon.

“This is the most vulnerable population that exists (nursing homes). And yet with an 80% vaccination rate, you see what happens to the cases. I don’t know what more anybody would ever need to know, that this is a safe and effective vaccine. And we have the opportunity to do that for the entire state, if just enough people will avail themselves of the opportunity to get vaccinated,” said Edwards.

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Gov. Edwards warned residents to continue to be cautious and practice mitigation measures over the next 30 days.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

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