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Edwards Hints At Loosened Coronavirus Restrictions Starting Next Week

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Phoebe Jones
/
WWNO

Louisiana may dial back some coronavirus restrictions beginning next week in response to the state’s improving health trends, Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a town hall Thursday morning.

“I anticipate based on the data that we have today that we will be making some changes,” Edwards said, though he declined to share specifics.

In recent weeks, the state’s coronavirus trends have fallen and flattened. Percent positivity, which reached the low teens in early January, is down to 5 percent. Hospitalizations have also fallen by two thirds, according to Edwards.

Every four weeks, Edwards must decide whether to extend the state’s current coronavirus restrictions, issue new ones, or drop the state’s emergency order completely.

“Obviously we aren’t going to end the public health emergency,” Edwards said.

The state’s current restrictions expire on Wednesday, and Edwards said he plans to announce a replacement order no later than Tuesday.

Edward said his team plans to use the state's most recent COVID-19 data to inform the new guidelines and acknowledged a potential blind spot. 

“With Mardi Gras and the winter weather, testing has fallen off considerably, so our visibility into exactly what’s happening isn’t quite what it was,” Edward said.

While the governor was tight-lipped about what restrictions might be relaxed, he made clear that the state’s mandate that bars close by 11 p.m. will remain in place.

Unlike restaurants, where people usually come for a meal and then go home, Edwards said, bar patrons often hop from one venue to the next.

“People who go to bars quite often go to multiple bars, and if you leave them open all night, then you have more people going,” Edwards said.

If someone is carrying the coronavirus, this can lead to an even higher number of close contacts and resulting infections. For now, Edwards said closing bars early is key to keeping COVID-19 under control.

The town hall was hosted by The Times Picayune | New Orleans Advocate and moderated by editor Peter Kovacs.

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