Cinco de Mayo 2020

A bartender reaches for a bottle during a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Papi’s Mexican Cuisine in Denham Springs on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

Livingston Parish did not meet the state’s gating criteria to reopen bars amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to newly-released data.

On Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health updated its two-week positivity rates for each parish. While these updates have been regular, they carry even more weight now, given that state officials are using them to determine which bars can reopen.

Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards advanced the state into Phase Three of its reopening plan, an order that went into effect Sept. 11 and is scheduled to run for 28 days through Friday, Oct. 9.

Under Phase Three, most businesses are able to operate at 75-percent capacity while some bars — but not all — will be allowed to reopen at a more restrictive capacity, depending on their parish’s positivity rate.

Bars have been effectively closed since mid-July when Edwards banned on-site consumption at bars during the state’s second surge in COVID-19 cases.

According to the Phase Three proclamation, bars can only open if they are located in a parish with 5-percent positivity rate or lower over the most recent two-week period and if the governing authority “opts in.”

Positivity rate is calculated by the number of positive tests divided by the total number of tests.

When re-opened, bars can operate at an indoor capacity of 25 percent, or up to 50 people, for customers seated for tableside service. They may have no more than 50 customers outdoors, socially distanced, seated for tableside service.

All drinks must be ordered at the table and delivered by bar staff to the table.

Sale and service of alcohol at bars, when they reopen, must end at 10 p.m., with all patrons cleared from the building by 11 p.m. Phase Three also prohibits the sale or service of alcohol for on-premises consumption at all establishments, including restaurants and casinos, after 10 p.m.

When re-opened, no one under the age of 21 is permitted in any bar.

However, those bars that meet the criteria to reopen will have to close if the parish they’re in reaches 10 percent or higher in positivity, Edwards said last week.

According to Wednesday’s update from the Department of Health, 10 of the state’s 64 parishes currently meet the threshold to reopen, meaning their positivity rate was less than 5 percent for two consecutive weeks.

In Livingston Parish, the positivity rate was 7.2 percent for the week of Aug. 27 - Sept. 2 and 8.3 percent for the week of Sept. 3-9.

Edwards said the more restrictive measures for bars are in line with guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, as cases among young people and in college towns continue to grow.

According to data from the Department of Health, there have been a reported 41 outbreaks in bars — the second-most of any setting — that have led to 470 cases. 

“That’s something we’ve done because activities at bars have proven inherently risky with the spread of the virus,” Edwards said during a radio appearance Wednesday. 

(1) comment

LivingstonParishLifer

I'm grateful for the clear guidance and methodically science based restrictions for opening the businesses in our community that impact community spread of this virus. I will say its unfortunate the same measures aren't being proposed by local leadership determining reopening decisions. Ie. school transition to full time. (That's somewhat understandable considering the burden imposed on faculty)

I don't find it unreasonable to request people enjoy their libations in the comfort of their home or socially distanced with their dinner if it can minimize community spread so we are able to keep more sections of our community functioning even if limited.

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