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Phase Three brings 75% capacity for some

Sunday, September 13, 2020
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Businesses and churches can now operate at 75% capacity and sporting venues at 25% capacity as part of Louisiana’s entry into Phase Three of coronavirus economic reopening, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Friday.

The new, lessened restrictions, along with ones allowing some bars to reopen in parishes with low positivity rates, became effective Friday night. They’ll remain in place at least until Oct. 9.

Phase Three is the least restrictive phase of reopening of the White House Opening Up America Again guidelines. However, the limitations ordered by Edwards are generally more limiting than those outlined in the Opening Up America Again document.

Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Judy Copeland called the move to Phase Three good news for retailers.

“We’re certainly on an upward trend to get more customers in the door,” Copeland said.

But for the parish school system, Phase Three doesn’t bring any immediate changes to operations, Superintendent Mike Milstead said.

The “AB” schedule, in which students in grades 7-12 alternate days on and off campus, was intended only for Phase Two, but Milstead said switching back to an every-day system in the middle of a nineweek grading period could cause scheduling issues.

Instead, the AB schedule will remain in effect until Oct. 19, at which point all non-virtual students will go back to school every day.

Elementary schools will start allowing stu dents in the virtual program who wish to return to campus to do so as early as Oct. 5 as is possible in each school’s case. Individual schools will contact parents about return dates. Virtual students in grades 7-12 will be able to go back to in-person learning on Oct. 19.

Since Edwards’ mask mandate remains in effect, students will be under the same mask rules as in Phase Two.

Louisiana moved into Phase Three on the same day confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln Parish went over 1,000 and deaths statewide from the respiratory illness topped 5,000.

Edwards said even though Louisiana has shown what he called “positive trends” overall that allowed it to progress to Phase Three, he’s still concerned about the as-of-yet unknown impact of the Labor Day weekend and resumption of school on the spread of the virus.

“There’s a potential for Labor Day to disrupt everything we’ve been doing,” Edwards said.

All of the mitigation measures that were in effect in Phase Two remain in effect in Phase Three, including the statewide mask mandate.

“None of that stuff changes as we move into the next phase,” Edwards said.

He said there isn’t room for much more movement until the novel coronavirus pandemic is over.

“We don’t go from 75% to 100% until the pandemic is over,” Edwards said.

Here’s a recap of what’s in Phase Three:

• Businesses including restaurants, spas, salons and gyms, as well as places of worship, can open at 75% capacity while still following social distancing guidelines.

• Sporting events are capped at 25% capacity with social distancing required and no alcohol.

• Bars can reopen on a parish-by-parish basis if the parish is testing at 5% positivity or under for two two-week periods. Even if a parish meets that criteria, the parish government will have to opt into reopening. The bars will be at 25% occupancy with table service only.

• On-premises alcohol sales for restaurants, bars, casinos, etc. must end at 10 p.m.

• Indoor social gatherings such as weddings and parties are capped at 50% occupancy or 250 people, whichever is lower. The same numbers apply for outdoor events.

• Nursing homes will continue to not allow visitors, but the Louisiana Department of Health is working on a pilot program for outdoor visits in parishes with under 5% positivity. According to LDH, the positivity rate in Lincoln Parish, as of Sept. 2, the most recent data is 7.2%.

Reporter Caleb Daniel contributed to this story.