Virus Restrictions Ease in New Orleans, but Bars Stay Closed

Virus Outbreak New Orleans
A sign hangs outside Bruno’s Tavern in New Orleans on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Kevin McGill)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Improving coronavirus statistics have led New Orleans officials to ease some virus-related restrictions and announce plans for students to return to classrooms, but bars in the city will stay closed for indoor service through the usually raucous Mardi Gras season, city officials said Wednesday.

A weeks-old public gathering ban — gatherings of people who are not part of the same household were prohibited — will be eased beginning Friday. Indoor gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed. Capacity limits on restaurants — and bars that provide restaurant-style food service — will go from 25% to 50%.

New Orleans education officials said students in kindergarten through eighth grade will begin returning to class on Monday. Most high school students will continue online learning until later in February, although until then, Superintendent Henderson Lewis said, some in-class lessons for groups of 15 or fewer students will be provided for those with special needs.

The easing of restrictions comes as local authorities report that the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has dropped below 5%. Statewide hospitalization numbers have been falling in recent weeks, also.

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