Louisiana lifts most coronavirus capacity limits, keeps mask mandate

Louisiana lifts most coronavirus capacity limits, keeps mask mandate
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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Tuesday announced plans to lift some capacity limits on businesses and other coronavirus restrictions, though the statewide mask mandate will remain in place. 

Tuesday’s order, which will take effect Wednesday and last through April 28, includes loosened capacity restrictions for bars and restaurants. 

Businesses such as salons, gyms and malls will no longer have capacity limits, though masks and social distancing are still required, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

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The order also removes pandemic-era limits on when bars and restaurants are permitted to serve alcoholic beverages, though bars must provide “socially distanced seated service.” 

Despite the easing of some restrictions, the governor’s office said businesses and venues that host large gatherings, including reception halls, will still have a 50 percent capacity limit, with a maximum of 500 people allowed indoors with social distancing. 

Large outdoor events will also be capped at 50 percent capacity, according to Tuesday’s press release. 

Edwards said in a statement that the state’s “three best tools for slowing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our hospitals operational are vaccinations, masks and distance.” 

“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 added, referring to a Monday order opening up vaccine eligibility in the state. 

“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,” Edwards continued. 

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“We aren’t yet out of the woods,” he added. “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.” 

The move to ease some capacity and safety restrictions across the state comes as health experts have continued to advise states against doing so, especially as a fourth wave of infections spreads throughout the country. 

However, Louisiana’s decision to not yet end its statewide mask mandate is a break from other Southern states, including Texas and Mississippi, which lifted their mask requirements earlier this month. 

Arkansas on Tuesday also announced it would be ending its statewide mask mandate and would be opening COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16.