By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday said Louisiana would remain in Phase 3 of the White House-approved restrictions meant to control the spread of COVID-19 until Nov. 6.
The announcement comes as some legislators continue to call for an end to all pandemic mitigation measures and question the governor’s right to impose them, arguing the rules handcuff the economy and violate basic individual rights.
The order limits restaurants, churches, salons, spas, gyms and other businesses to a maximum of 75 percent of their normal occupancy. Face coverings are required in public places.
Bars are allowed to open, but only in parishes where COVID-19 positivity rates are low for two full weeks and local officials allow it. Edwards said 40 parishes qualify now and 27 have opted in.
In a previously announced change, the new order allows for alcohol sales at sporting events. He said organizers of fairs and festivals can submit plans to state officials for review and possible approval, though none will be allowed to have more than 500 people on site at a time.
Edwards said the White House coronavirus task force recommends Louisiana keep its mitigation rules in place, adding that the restrictions wouldn’t be changed much until a vaccine is available.
“There just isn’t a lot further to go in terms of loosening restrictions before we are fully back to normal,” he said.
A resolution to suspend the governor’s order for 30 days has passed the state House of Representatives but not the Senate. Multiple petitions to end the state of emergency have been circulating among legislators, though none has gathered enough signatures so far.
Republicans have proposed numerous measures that are pending in the current special session that would allow legislators to end or amend a governor’s executive order, though legislators have not yet coalesced around a specific instrument.
Business owners have sued to overturn some or all of the restrictions, though the courts so far have sided with the Edwards administration.
Since the pandemic began, Louisiana officials have confirmed 170,621 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5,471 deaths. Almost 158,000 of those COVID-19 patients are believed to have recovered.