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As La moves into Phase 3 of reopening, tourism industry expects to see improvements

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BATON ROUGE - Following a significant improvement in statistics related to Louisiana's COVID-19 hospitalizations and case counts, Governor John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday (March 2) that the state will move forward to Phase 3, which will bring most COVID restrictions back to where they were last September.

With this move forward in the reopening process, the local tourism industry anticipates that reduced COVID restrictions will draw more visitors to the state.

An increase in visitors means adapting to new coronavirus health and safety guidelines in the venues that will host events.

Some of the guidelines are listed below:

-Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since last July, will remain in place. 

-Musicians who are not singing, must wear masks. 

-The venue's ventilation system must provide at least six air changes each hour within the space. 

-Venue heads must ensure that there are at least 20 feet between the performers and audience members. 

-Performers should not share microphones or instruments. 

In addition to the above restrictions, the Governor's office announced that live music will be allowed indoors under guidance that will be detailed by the State Fire Marshal and that indoor gatherings may operate at 50 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people.

Additionally, outdoor events may operate at 50 percent of their capacity, with no cap on attendance, but six feet of social distancing must be practiced. Conventions, conferences, indoor sporting events and fairs and festivals may operate at up to 50 percent capacity with six feet of social distancing required, if they receive approval from the State Fire Marshal and the Louisiana Department of Health.

A number of Louisiana's venues, thriving before the coronavirus health crisis, have suffered layoffs amid the pandemic.

Officials with the Baton Rouge River Center, a location which has not fully opened for nearly a year, said the venue has been able to break even due to the implementation of job cuts.

Now that Governor Edwards has announced a move forward in the state's reopening process, the River Center's General Manager told WBRZ that the location is eager to host a number of COVID-safe performances.

A recent report from the Governor's office said that overall, Louisiana’s percent positivity for COVID-19 tests is 5 percent, one third of the positivity rate six weeks ago. The state has completed more than 6 million COVID tests and administered more than 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Edwards spoke of the reduced restrictions, saying, “These Phase 3 restrictions will keep some common sense and lifesaving limitations in place while we work to continue keeping the case counts down and administering the vaccines to as many Louisianans as quickly as we can."

He continued, “As we are cautiously reducing some of the restrictions related to slowing the spread of COVID, it is even more critical that people take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and those around them. This includes wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, washing their hands frequently, staying home when they are sick or have been exposed and getting the vaccine when it is their turn. The last several weeks have been full of hopeful milestones, including a third COVID vaccine and the state administering more than one million doses. But we also know that COVID variants, which we know are more contagious, are active in Louisiana. In nearly a year of battling this pandemic, we have lost almost 10,000 of our fellow Louisianans, and many people have suffered greatly. It is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to help put this pandemic behind us and save lives.”

The Governor’s new order will last for 28 days and will expire March 31, 2021.

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