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Governor, local public schools announce ‘Phase Three’ changes

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday morning that Louisiana would move to “Phase Three” of its COVID-19 re-opening plan, starting Saturday, Sept. 12.

Speaking in Baton Rouge, Edwards said he would provide additional details about the changes later in the week. On Friday afternoon, he announced some of the details of the Phase Three order, which differ from White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention federal guidelines.

In Edwards’ Phase Three order, the following regulations are enforced:

  • Bars in parishes with a 5-percent positive rate or lower for two consecutive weeks can re-open under local government permission. They can have 25-percent capacity, or up to 50 people, indoors. Social distancing is still required both inside and outside. Patrons must be seated and must order at the table. Service will end at 10 p.m., before bar closure at 11 p.m.
  • Indoor gatherings, like weddings and birthday parties, can operate with 50-percent capacity, up to 250 people.
  • Live music will still not be allowed indoors.
  • Most businesses and community facilities can operate at 75-percent capacity, including — but not limited to — restaurants, churches, salons, spas and gyms.
  • There are no changes to indoor nursing home visitations. Some nursing homes in parishes with 5-percent positivity rates or less could be eligible for a 28-day outdoor visitation program.
  • The mask mandate will remain in place.

Edwards’ order is different from the federal Phase Three guidelines, which do allow for in-person nursing home visits.

Although the details had not been announced until Friday afternoon, both of the school systems in Washington Parish had announced their changes in reaction to the Phase Three news by Friday morning.

Lisa Tanner, superintendent of the Bogalusa City Schools, said that the system “does not foresee (immediately) changing to a five-day-a-week schedule for our hybrid students.” Tanner said that the BCS would likely make such a move in the future, possibly at the end of the current nine weeks.

“We want our students back in school face to face rather than in virtual settings, as soon as possible,” Tanner said, in a message to parents posted on the BCS Facebook page. “We will provide updates as soon as it becomes available.”

Officials with the Washington Parish Schools said that students in kindergarten through sixth grade would return to an in-person learning model starting Monday. The students will have in-person learning for four days a week.

Students in seventh through 12th grade will remain in a “hybrid model,” where students will be in school in-person at least two days per week.

Distance learning options will still be available for students, and hygiene measures will continue to be practiced.