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Louisiana removes capacity limits on churches; moves to Phase 3

The governor's current emergency order expires on Wednesday, March 3 and will likely be replaced with a new, less restrictive order.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state is moving into a Phase 3 COVID order starting Wednesday for the next 28 days.

Among the big changes, houses of worship will no longer have capacity restrictions going forward, though masking is still required and social distancing encouraged. 

Bars will be allowed to go to 25 percent capacity, but that can increase to 50 percent for bars in parishes where the percent positivity is under 5 percent for 7 consecutive days.

Live music will be allowed indoors with some limits. 

There were more details that will be forthcoming.

"We're moving in the right direction," said Edwards. "And we have been for several weeks."

Edwards said the state is well off its recent surge highs that were hit on January 8.

"We still have a lot of work to do before we are out of this pandemic," he said. 

Despite the loosening of restrictions, Edwards said masking and social distancing policies remain in place.

The announcement comes after the state surpassed a milestone of 1 million vaccine doses administered on Monday. More than 14 percent of the state's population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Tuesday, the Louisiana Department of Health said there were 629 COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized across the state. That figure is significantly lower than the record 2,069 set in the first week of January.

Louisiana has also seen dramatic drops in new COVID-19 cases and deaths since the virus' third surged peaked last month. The LDH reported on Monday another 19 deaths and 770 new cases of the disease. 

In total, 9,647 people have died in the state due to the virus. 

Edwards said last week that Louisiana is on track for its largest shipments of coronavirus vaccine doses to date and could soon receive enough shots to roll out larger immunization locations because of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine.

Federal officials have told Louisiana it should receive about 38,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine the first week after its FDA approval. Those doses would come on top of the 97,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines the state expects to receive this week.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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