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Louisiana staying in Phase 2 for another month

In total, 7,971 people have died, and 352,939 cases of the virus have been reported in Louisiana.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is staying with Phase-2 restrictions for another month. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards is calling on Louisiana's employers to keep workers at home if possible. But the Democratic governor Tuesday stopped short of tightening his current restrictions on businesses any further.

Edwards says he renewed the same coronavirus rules he’s had in place since late November. They were slated to expire Wednesday. Those rules include a statewide mask mandate and provisions keeping bars limited to outdoor and delivery service. They also include restrictions on the number of customers allowed in nonessential businesses such as restaurants and salons. Meanwhile, Louisiana’s pace of vaccinations appeared to be improving. The health department says nearly 160,000 doses have been administered. 

"I want to prepare everyone for the next few weeks," he said. "They won't be pretty. They'll be the worst we've had during the pandemic."

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported an additional 53 deaths and 4,673 new cases of COVID-19 in the state. Hospitalizations continued to rise, increasing by a net 53 since Monday to a total of 2,035 COVID-19 positive patients in hospitals.

In total, 7,971 people have died, and 352,939 cases of the virus have been reported in Louisiana since the outbreak was first detected in early March.

The state health department said 159,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the state, an increase of nearly 80,000 since last week.

Louisiana is boosting its distribution of coronavirus vaccines to the elderly. The state on Monday increased the number of doses available to people aged 70 and older this week and expanded the locations where they can get the shots to include every parish of the state. 

The Department of Health’s list of pharmacies offering the vaccine to the elderly numbered 107 last week. It has grown to 209 pharmacies and health clinics this week. Gov. John Bel Edwards’s administration also is steering thousands more doses to the facilities for vaccinations of people 70 and older. 

Demand remains certain to exceed supply. People need to make an appointment to get vaccinated.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.