BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he has amended his Phase 3 order for outdoor high school sports by allowing outdoor stadiums in parishes with lower rates of positive COVID tests to move to 50 percent capacity, up from 25 percent.
To be eligible, parishes must have percent positivity of less than five percent for two consecutive weeks based on the most recent report from the Louisiana Dept. of Health, which is updated weekly on Wednesdays.
The order will be effective Friday.
Noting that the increased capacity allowance is similar to a change he made for bars, Edwards said one way that it is different is that schools will not be required to opt in and the higher capacity allowance will be automatic. Capacity will be reduced again to 25% in parishes that have met the criteria but where positivity rates rise above 10% or more for two weeks.
There are currently 26 parishes that are eligible to participate: Assumption, Avoyelles, Catahoula, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Grant, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison, Orleans, Rapides, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Terrebonne, Vermilion, West Feliciana and Winn.
Prior to this change, the capacity for sports stadiums, arenas and athletic events was limited to 25 percent. This change does not apply to any college, professional or indoor sports.
The Phase 3 order expires on November 6, 2020.
Click here to read the updated Phase 3 order.
“After meeting with the leaders of both the House and Senate and considering their requests, I have agreed to make this change in a way that is safe, reasonable and will help more fans enjoy seeing their favorite teams play,” said Gov. Edwards. “Using the percent positivity as the guide is important because it helps to determine the rate of community spread, which is the safest, most responsible and consistent way to move forward. Everyone who attends these sporting events will still have to social distance and wear a mask.”
Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Louisiana Senate President Page Cortez oversaw the passage of a bill Tuesday giving Republican Louisiana lawmakers more authority to curb Edwards’ coronavirus restrictions and emergency powers.
It remains to be seen whether Edwards will veto the bill, but he has consistently said that the Louisiana Constitution gives him the authority to manage emergencies, and he does not intend to give up authority.
Louisiana reported 775 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths Thursday, bringing the cumulative number of cases statewide to 178,171 and total deaths to 5,593.
Data released from the White House on Wednesday shows that Louisiana is doing better than its southern peers when it comes to COVID-19. Louisiana is one of the 15 states in the “orange zone” for new cases per-capita while most states in the country are in the “red zone.”
The state is ranked 36th for new weekly cases per capita.
However, Edwards and Office of Public Health Interim Assistant Secretary Dr. Joseph Kanter both warned that there are some signs of troubling trends that could point to an increase in cases in several regions around the state.
Edwards noted that hospitalizations continue to be the most concerning trends and that there are some “trouble spots” and some parishes that are above 10% positivity.
Both also emphasized the effectiveness of social distancing measures and wearing masks in addition to following the guidelines they say have helped Louisiana stabilize the spread of the virus..
“And quite frankly, if more people participated and adhered to them, we’d do even better,” Edwards said. But he also warned that the gains could be lost as the holidays and flu season kicks into high gear.
“The holidays should not look like they did last year. We have to do things differently, we have to do things smarter, and I am asking you to do that.”