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Supreme Court won't hear La. pastor's appeal against state's stay-at-home order

The case, brought by Central, La. pastor Tony Spell, hoped to overturn the Phase 1 reopening order limiting church congregations. Louisiana is now in Phase 2.
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NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought by a Louisiana pastor seeking to curb Gov. John Bel Edwards' COVID-19 restrictions, leaving a lower ruling in support of the stay at home order in place. 

In a statement Saturday, Edwards called the decision a victory for his administration's science-based approach to coronavirus mitigation. 

“Throughout the course of this pandemic, I have let science and data inform the many difficult decisions I have made regarding gathering sizes and other mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID," he said.

The case, brought by Central, La. pastor Tony Spell, hoped to overturn the Phase 1 reopening order limiting church congregations over the summer as coronavirus cases spiked. 

But by the time it made its way to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans, the executive order Spell was fighting had already expired. By that time, Louisiana had already moved to Phase 2. 

The Supreme Court's decision not to take up the case on appeal effectively ends Spell's legal challenge even if the state rolls back into a stricter lockdown phase. 

The decision comes as Louisiana and the country as a whole face a new surge in COVID cases. Edwards, alarmed by the spiking numbers in the state, rolled Louisiana back to a modified Phase 2 state earlier this month. 

That restriction closed bars in parishes with a positivity rate higher than 5%. 

Health experts warn that there could be another uptick in the weeks after Thanksgiving, spurred on by travel and small gatherings of people. 

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