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Live music returns to New Orleans as city relaxes COVID restrictions

Finally, on March 12, live music venues will reopen their doors — with certain restrictions.

NEW ORLEANS — It won't be the type of rolicking concerts music lovers -- or musicians -- once knew when The Howlin' Wolf opens its doors next week for the first show in a year.

“People will be seated. They'll be required to wear a mask, and you'll actually -- when you purchase your ticket, you'll understand that,” said owner Howie Kaplan. “It's not going to come out of left field.”

But even 75 people sitting down will be a welcome sight, Kaplan said.

"How do you not get excited about New Orleans music? People call every day, and not just one or two,” Kaplan said. “We get dozens of calls every day asking when music's going to happen again."

Finally, an answer: Friday, March 12

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Wednesday that’s when the city will go into a modified Phase 3.

Most of it will dovetail with the Phase 3 Governor John Bel Edwards put into place last week.

Some key differences in New Orleans:

  • Gatherings limited to 75 people inside and 150 outside
  • Religious services will be capped at 75 percent capacity
  • And there will also be stricter limitations on crowd sizes at sporting events, fairs and festivals

“In the last month, our new cases have continued that steady decline and are back at that really comfortable spot,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city’s health director.

New Orleans is now averaging 31 new cases a day, well below prior peaks. But city leaders say they don't want to move too fast with reopening.

"You just have to look to history in the last year to know what happens when you open up too much too soon,” Avegno said. “Those are hospitalizations and deaths that can be prevented."

Back at The Howlin' Wolf, Kaplan said he's grateful to be able to host shows again, even with some restrictions in place.

"First show's gonna be fun. It's gonna be magical -- in so many ways,” he said. “There's going to be a lot of tears shed.”

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