In a press conference Wednesday, New Orleans officials announced the easing of some coronavirus restrictions for restaurants and social gatherings, while confirming that bars will remain closed for indoor service through Mardi Gras on February 16. Starting Friday, January 29, maximum indoor restaurant capacity can increase to 50 percent, and indoor gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted with 25 people allowed at outdoor gatherings.
The announcement answers a big question for many — whether or not bars will be open for indoor service on Mardi Gras. It follows the swift reaction among locals last week when Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that “visitors were welcome” for Mardi Gras, despite the nation’s dire positivity rate and current restrictions for residents. City health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said Wednesday that indoor bar service will remain prohibited through February 16 even if the city’s positivity rate remains below the threshold set by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a move that could potentially deter some tourists from coming to town for the holiday. Per state guidelines that prohibit indoor bar service in parishes that exceed a five percent positivity rate for two weeks straight, the city first shut down indoor service at bars at the end of December, when the city’s positivity rate climbed to 5.5 percent.
On January 8, the city ordered restaurants and other businesses to reduce maximum indoor capacity to 25 percent and limited gatherings to household members, after New Orleans’s positivity rate rose to 10.4 percent. Today, Dr. Avegno announced New Orleans’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests has dropped to four percent, saying “The small strides we’ve made will allow us to inch back towards normalcy.”
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