Boost in COVID vaccinations brings ease in restrictions

Staff Report

Capacity limits for salons, beauty shops, gyms, fitness centers, malls and casinos ended last week, but social distancing and mask mandates will continue as part of Louisiana’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.  

The executive order signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards also removes limitations on when bars and restaurants may serve alcohol, defaulting to local ordinances.

Gov. John Bel Edwards

People younger than 21 are still not allowed inside bars, and bars are only allowed to provide patrons with socially distanced seated service under the new order.

The mask mandate continues despite an end to that order in Mississippi and Texas in early March. The mandate in Arkansas was set to end Wednesday.

The latest order keeps requirements for six feet of social distance in all businesses, as well as other mitigation measures deemed necessary by the Louisiana Department of Health and the state fire marshal.

They are posted on OpenSafely.La.gov. The order runs for 28 days and expires on April 28.

“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,” 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.”

He warned 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’re not out the woods yet,” Edwards said.

Businesses and venues that host larger gatherings, such as receptions halls, will remain capped at 50 percent of capacity, with a maximum gathering size of not more than 500 people indoors and strict social distancing.

Indoor and outdoor sporting events will be limited to 50 percent of capacity. Masks are required under all circumstances.

Vaccinations will make the biggest difference in efforts to move past restrictions, Edwards said.

“Vaccination is the best way we have to put this pandemic in our rearview mirror,” he said.

“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.”