State licensing authorities allowed bars in Assumption Parish to reopen early Wednesday evening after the parish had met health benchmarks for the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Parish officials sent an anticipatory letter opting in to the eased viral restrictions under the state's Phase 3 two weeks ago, but the go-ahead from the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control didn't come until Wednesday evening, a few hours after other parishes that met those standards.
Under Gov. John Bel Edwards' Phase 3 rules, parishes with 5% or less of tests returning positive over two consecutive weeks can seek to have their bars, daiquiri shops and breweries reopen for on-premises alcohol consumption after closures during a second rise in viral cases this summer.
State alcohol licensing authorities on Wednesday made St. James Parish one of five parishes in Louisiana allowed to reopen bars after hitting …
Before those changes take effect, however, the parishes must opt in with the ATC and receive its blessing.
ATC officials said Assumption officials mailed an opt-in letter and it wasn't immediately caught Wednesday but was processed later the same day. Other opt-in letters had been emailed.
Updates to the ATC's list of parishes in Phase 3 through midday Thursday has 27 parishes authorized to have bars reopen, with seven parishes added on Wednesday.
St. James Parish was one of five parishes that initially showed up on the authorization list Wednesday after the latest test positivity data was published by the state Department of Health. Later on Wednesday, Vermilion Parish joined Assumption as subsequent additions to the list.
With the looser rules, bars and other alcohol-serving establishments can operate with table service at 25% capacity with up to 50 patrons until 11 p.m. Other restrictions also apply.
Assumption had two consecutive weeks of 2.3% positivity. Vermilion had weekly test positivity of 4.8% and 3.3%. The two weekly periods extended from Sept. 17 to Sept. 30.
The positivity rate shows the share of positive tests in a given batch of testing.
Health experts say the percentage is one measure of viral spread but also an indicator of the penetration of testing efforts into the community. All things being equal, increased testing should lead to lower positivity rates as long as the rate of viral spread isn't increasing.