LA Legislators Call On Gov. Edwards to Fully Open State

On Thursday, 33 Louisiana Legislators called on Gov. John Bel Edwards to follow the example of states like Texas and Mississippi and lift COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s time to lift statewide restrictions on the capacity of all businesses and facilities and lift the statewide mask mandate,” the legislators wrote. “Our businesses, both large and small, will continue to fight against COVID-19. We are certain that their continued commitment and direction as it relates to capacity issues and enforcement of other virus safety precautions will be done safely and professionally without any additional government mandates.”

However, recent events in New Orleans have shown that’s not necessarily true. The city has been forced to shut down 13 businesses for failing to enforce capacity limits and mask-wearing policies. Most recently, Republic NOLA was shut down on March 1 after more than 250 people were found inside the bar well past the 11 p.m. shutdown curfew for alcohol sales. Most of those were not wearing masks.

Gov. Edwards announced on Tuesday that the state would move to Phase 3, allowing most businesses – including restaurants – to increase their capacity to 75 percent. Bars across the state can offer indoor service up to 25 percent, or 50 percent in parishes whose positivity rate remains below 5 percent. Live music is now allowed indoors, pending approval from the Louisiana Fire Marshal, though crowds are capped at 250. Gyms, fitness centers, and athletic events are allowed 50 percent capacity, with a cap of 250.

The limitations on religious services – which many conservative Republican legislators have decried throughout the pandemic, have been lifted, though the state mask mandate remains in place and social distancing is encouraged. The loosening of restrictions is meant to allow the state to be as open as possible while continuing to protect against public health.

Unlike Louisiana’s legislators, Dr. Anthony Fauci – the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser – is warning against fully reopening.

“Let’s not declare victory yet, right? You don’t want the decline that we’re seeing to plateau at an unreasonably high level. Right now, the level of daily infections is somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 a day. That’s absolutely too high a level to be acceptable. I don’t want to be a downer on all of this. But you’ve got to continue to practice public health measures until the level of infection goes way, way down.”

Unlike the rest of the state, New Orleans will not be moving to Phase 3. As a national hotspot early on in the pandemic, the city has often adopted stronger mitigation measures than the rest of the state in order to protect its citizens.

“Last week, the New Orleans Health Department eased restrictions on gathering sizes and sporting events as a result of a sustained decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Orleans Parish. It is important to monitor the effect those changes may have on transmission,” the City said in a press release. “Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently recommended against significantly rolling back restrictions to curb the spread in light of the more contagious variants. For these reasons, the current guidelines in Orleans Parish will remain in place at this time.”

You can see the full list of legislators calling on Gov. Edwards to fully open the state and read their full letter here.

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