Governor: Louisiana will remain in Phase 2

Louisiana will stay in “Phase 2” of the White House-approved restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday.

The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is increasing in every region of the state, officials report. The rate of COVID-19 tests coming back positive is well above 10 percent statewide; officials would prefer to see a rate below 5 percent.

Edwards said private events held over the holidays sparked the most recent coronavirus infection increase. He said federal officials believe the next four to six weeks will be the nation’s most difficult stretch since the pandemic began.

“The next several weeks are going to be incredibly tough,” he said.

Restaurants, gyms, barbers, salons, theaters and most retail businesses in Louisiana will continue to be limited to half of their normal indoor capacity. Places of worship will remain at a maximum of 75 percent of their capacity or the number of people who can physically distance with at least six feet between each immediate household.

For bars in parishes where the positivity rate (the proportion of COVID-19 tests that come back positive) is above 5 percent, barrooms are closed to indoor sales and consumption but can still serve up to 50 people outside. Indoor gatherings at event centers and sporting events are limited to 25 percent capacity, while outdoor gatherings where maintaining physical distance is not possible are limited to 25 percent capacity or up to 150 individuals.

At least 7,536 Louisiana residents with COVID-19 have died, officials reported along with 435 “probable deaths.” There were 53 new deaths reported on Tuesday.

At last count there were 2,035 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, 244 of whom were on ventilators. The number of hospitalizations exceeds the peak seen during Louisiana’s past two surges.

There have been nearly 353,000 cases of COVID-19 reported in Louisiana since the pandemic began. As of Jan. 4, officials said more than 280,000 COVID-19 of those people had recovered.

Edwards said a new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that is thought to be easier to transmit has not yet been identified in Louisiana, though it is likely safe to assume the new variant is present in the state. There is more COVID-19 in the state now than at any point during the pandemic, officials said.

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