BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced that he will sign a proclamation on Friday that moves the state into Phase 3 of its reopening plans from COVID-19.
Edwards declined to give many details on what Phase 3 would specifically allow, but he did note that the mask mandate will remain in place. Edwards said additional details will come at a 2 p.m. press conference on Friday.
Edwards’ announcement comes as the rate of new cases, percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations have declined. And it follows Edwards’ publicly expressed concerns about another surge in cases following the return of students to school and college campuses and the recent Labor Day holiday weekend.
“This was probably the hardest decision that I’ve made thus far,” Edwards said. “Not based on the data itself but based on all of the activities that have been going on in the state of Louisiana recently that could influence where we are two or three weeks from now that isn’t reflected upon the data in which I’ve made my decision.”
Current regulations, set to expire Friday, 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.
The state was an early hot spot for outbreaks of the new coronavirus in the spring and saw a resurgence in the summer.
White House guidelines for Phase Three openings include allowing bars to operate with “increased standing room occupancy.” But states are free to adopt their own regulations and it was unclear if Edwards would lift the closure order on bars in the state — a closure being fought in federal court by groups of bar owners in southeast and southwest Louisiana.
The easing would not necessarily affect New Orleans, where Mayor LaToya Cantrell has consistently instituted somewhat tougher restrictions than the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.