Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is tightening state coronavirus restrictions as the state's third wave has come with rising numbers.
The state will be going backward from Phase 3 to a modified version of Phase 2.
Governor Edwards said if people comply with the new measures, the state will see progress.
The Governor said Central and Northern Louisiana are having the most issues, but that every region of the state is seeing rises in cases and positivity.
"When we beat the late-summer spike, remember, we were in Phase 2," Edwards said. "If we get cooperation and we do what we're being told to do, we will limit this and have success."
The new proclamation lasts for 28 days through December 23, and it goes into effect tomorrow, but Gov. Edwards said it's unlikely the restrictions will be lifted past Dec. 23.
"The guidance we're given is that we're in for a really, really tough couple of months," Gov. Edwards said.
In the new Phase 2, the state will reduce capacity to 25% at sporting events. A 50% capacity will be allowed in gyms, restaurants, coffee shops, casinos, and non-essential retail, down from 75% capacity before.
Churches will be able to operate at 75% capacity.
Bars will be able to operate indoors if their parish has a 5% or lower positivity rate, but for areas at 5% or more, outdoor service will be allowed, but only outdoor service.
Most parishes after tomorrow's updated positivity rates will fall above 5%, according to Edwards.
Indoor gatherings (not specified above) will be limited to 25% capacity or 75 people when capacity is not known and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25% capacity or 150 people when capacity is not known.
The mask mandate will remain in place and schools will be able to remain open.
"If there was ever a time to step up and be a good neighbor," Edwards said. "That time is now. ... Let's do this together for those you love and for our heroic medical professionals, too."
The governor said numbers in Louisiana in the past 10-14 days have been alarming - a time that's seen our hospitalizations rise by almost double.
Gov. Edwards said several regions of the state are rapidly running out of hospital bedding - both for COVID patients and folks who have other ailments.
Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Department of Health said the rises are coming in every state region, and the state is firmly entrenched in a third wave that has also swept through the rest of the country.
"We were lucky for a few weeks," Dr. Kanter said. "The rest of the country has been dealing with this and we were able to dodge it. That luck has now run out."
Dr. Kanter said Louisiana hospitals still have adequate capacity, but if we continue to see hospitalizations rise at the rate that they've risen in the past few weeks, that capacity would soon run out.
He said that people who have been coming into ERs with COVID-like symptoms has risen sharply in all regions, and that testing demand has also risen - a sign that more people are coming in reporting that they are sick.
The state also does not want to let hospitals get near capacity to allow people to
Dr. Kanter said no matter what the state does, the next 10-14 days will likely still be difficult in COVID reporting because COVID is a lagging indicator, so the activities of the past several days are still not yet being seen in testing and cases.
Dr. Kanter said all of these things, plus the cold weather and holidays are problematic going forward.
"The path ahead is dangerous," Dr. Kanter said. "This is a dangerous time for Louisiana."
Dr. Kanter said this wave is more dangerous than the others because unlike before where some states did not have issues when Louisiana did, right now, almost all 50 states are having problems.
"If we're in a place where we have to ask for help, that help is not going to come," Dr. Kanter said. "Everyone is needed where they are."
Dr. Kanter said we have beaten COVID waves twice before and we're equipped to do so again if there is buy-in from residents. He said for anyone who "is over it," he urges them to asked someone who works at a hospital, and you will quickly re-find motivation to follow protocols.
"COVID fatigue is real," Dr. Kanter said. "But the fact is - people are still very seriously at risk."
Gov. Edwards said he urges people to cooperate with these restrictions for the people of the state of Louisiana.
He said he understands people are fatigued, but this is vital and will not stop without cooperation.
"We need your help," Edwards said. "We need your cooperation."
Gov. Edwards said studies have shown that COVID is 20 times more likely to spread indoors than outdoors when the same activity is taking place, so he's urging people to enjoy the comfortable weather we've enjoyed outdoors to help fight the spread.
Gov. Edwards said we are in the final stretch of this COVID run. There is a chance Louisiana will begin administering COVID vaccinations to the vulnerable portions of the population within the next month, but that process will start slow.
By mid-2021, Edwards said we are going to be in a much better place. He said by "April, May and June" of 2021, he thinks enough people will have the vaccination in Louisiana that the pandemic will be "in the rear view mirror."
"We will not be masking forever," Edwards said. "I think next Thanksgiving is going to be one of our best ones ever."