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New Orleans bars to close indefinitely as coronavirus cases rise

Deaths from the virus, which are a lagging statistic, are also rising. More than 1,600 people were hospitalized as of Friday and 29 new deaths were reported.

NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that all bars in the city of New Orleans would need to close at 6 a.m. Saturday as coronavirus numbers maintain at a level above the threshold set by the city's department of health. 

The ban, specifically on take-out alcohol, applies to restaurants as well in the parish. It furthers statewide restrictions put in place earlier this month. 

"What this essentially means is that bars will be closed throughout Orleans Parish," Cantrell said. "We understand the impact this is having on our bar community."

The move to shut down bars is the latest escalation in an effort by elected officials to curb the spread of the coronavirus at some of the most common hotspots. 

"Since we’ve moved to Phase 2, the city has seen an unfavorable trend with the coronavirus," Cantrell said. 

The city's health director, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, said the move, while tough, makes sense. 

"It’s important to note here that the closure of bars is a strong recommendation for Louisiana made by the White House Coronavirus Task Force due to the surge of cases in the state," she said. "We agree that restricting the activities that clearly continue to be linked to new cases is common sense."  

In Orleans Parish, gatherings of over 25 people are prohibited, and even gatherings that are allowed are discouraged. 

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Earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards restricted bars statewide to to-go service only. 

But the statewide restriction didn't seem to deter people from Bourbon Street. The French Quarter, especially on the weekends, has seen crowds of people walking the streets with to-go drinks. 

"We are hoping that this will deter large gatherings...(on) Bourbon Street," Cantrell said. "We know the trigger is the sale of alcohol." 

Louisiana has seen a second spike in coronavirus numbers over the past several weeks, with more than 2,000 cases reported daily throughout much of July. 

Deaths from the virus, which are a lagging statistic, are also rising. More than 1,600 people were hospitalized as of Friday and 29 new deaths were reported. 

Edwards has been hesitant to roll Louisiana back to Phase 1, as a memo from the White House Coronavirus Task Force has suggested, citing the deep economic troubles it would cause. 

But Orleans Parish has long been responding out of step and often more cautiously than the state. When the first shutdown announcements came in March, New Orleans closed businesses two days ahead of the governor's statewide announcement. 

And as the state has started reopening, New Orleans has for Phase 1 and 2 reopened later than the rest of the state. 

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