New guidelines for Louisiana businesses forthcoming Thursday

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Guidelines for how businesses should operate once Louisiana’s “stay at home” order ends Friday will be available before Gov. John Bel Edwards issues his next executive order Thursday, Edwards said Wednesday.

Under the new order, which was discussed in broad strokes Monday, some businesses, such as massage and tattoo parlors, amusement parks, and bars that don’t serve food are to remain closed. But churches and other types of businesses can reopen at 25 percent of their usual capacity to allow for six feet between individuals and 10 feet between tables. Restaurants can reopen their indoor dining rooms. Businesses deemed “essential” under federal guidelines still can remain open.

The ban on gatherings larger than 10 people will not change for now. Business owners, managers and religious leaders can sign up for details at OpenSafely.la.gov, but they are not required to sign up to seek government approval for their reopening plans.

Employees who deal with the public will be required to wear a mask covering their mouth and nose. Customers are not required to wear masks, though everyone is strongly encouraged to wear masks when out in public and maintain at least six feet of distance from people who are not part of their household.

“This is not a return to life before COVID,” said Dr. Alex Billioux with the state Office of Public Health. “We are still safer at home.”

Edwards said state officials are working with the federal government on a plan to be able to test all nursing home residents and employees for the new coronavirus. Almost 40 percent of Louisiana’s COVID-19 deaths were nursing home residents.

As Louisiana ramps up testing, officials plan to focus on any place large numbers of people live in close quarters, along with hotspots and areas where testing has been sparse.

Three state parks currently serving as isolation areas for COVID-19 patients will remain closed in phase one of the White House-approved reopening process. But 18 will reopen this weekend, along with 18 historic sites and nine state museums, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser announced Wednesday.

All out-of-state reservations are canceled, but residents can begin making reservations for cabins, campsites and lodges. Parks will be limited to 25 percent capacity.

Louisiana officials reported 612 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, but about half are attributed to the fact that three new labs reported their results at once, Edwards said. Officials also reported 32 new deaths, bringing the total to 2,315, along with 66 “probable deaths.”