New Orleans Bars Can Continue Indoor Service During Pandemic

Virus Outbreak New Orleans
A masked patron’s reflection is seen in a plexiglass partition as other patrons chat at the bar inside Bar Tonique on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans bars won’t have to send patrons onto the street because city residents have heeded warnings that the city might have to tighten coronavirus pandemic restrictions, city officials said Wednesday.

Numbers remain higher than they were six weeks ago and are still higher than officials would like, but don’t “cross the threshold that would close our bars to indoor seating,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, head of the city health department.

“In no way are we out of the woods at all,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a livestreamed news conference with Avegno. However, she said, the percentage of positive tests — which had hit 5.2% — has fallen back below 5%.

Under Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide order, bars can have indoor seating only in parishes where the percentage of positive tests is below 5%.

Over the past week, Cantrell said, the figure was 4.7%.

Cantrell had said in social media posts on Dec. 7 that restrictions would be added unless numbers looked better this week.

Asked whether the city can look forward to relaxing restrictions, Cantrell said they cannot be looser than statewide rules.

She and Avegno asked city residents to continue all precautions such as wearing masks and distancing themselves from other people.

The situation is fragile, Avegno said, with positive tests and numbers of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continuing to surge in the rest of the state and the nation. New Orleans still has many local patients admitted to hospitals and others transferred from outside the city, she said.

New Orleans has had 17,876 of the state’s 254,489 confirmed infections and 620 of the 6,607 deaths in Louisiana from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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