SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Three more Northwest Louisiana parishes have now had low enough COVID-19 positivity rates for long enough to allow bars to open at a higher capacity than the 25% that went into effect last week under the governor’s new emergency orders.

Under the governor’s new rules for reopening, bars can let customers back inside at 25% of their occupancy limit, with a maximum of 250 people. But if the bars are located in a parish that has seen coronavirus testing positivity rates of less than 5% for two weeks, they can increase their indoor seating to 50% capacity, up to 250 people — if local parish leaders authorize it.

In addition to Claiborne Parish, which met that requirement last week, bars in Caddo, Natchitoches, and Red River can now do the same.

Positivity rates dropped in all nine Northwest parishes last week, according to the latest update from the Louisiana Department of Health, which releases data on positivity rates by parish weekly on Wednesdays. All fell below 5%, but only Caddo, Claiborne, Natchitoches, and Red River have had rates low enough for two straight weeks.

  • Caddo dropped from 4.60 to 2.70% positivity.
  • Claiborne dropped from 4.00 to 1.70.
  • Natchitoches dropped from 2.90 to 1.90.
  • Red River dropped from 2.20 to 1.30.

The following parishes could meet the requirements next week of they stay below 5% positivity:

  • Bossier dropped from 5.70 to 3.00.
  • De Soto dropped from 5.30 to 2.80.
  • Webster dropped from 6.30 to 2.00.
  • Bienville dropped from 8.40 to 2.80.
  • Sabine dropped from 8.80 to 1.50.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 577 new COVID-19 cases statewide and 43 more deaths Wednesday, including four mour deaths in Caddo Parish and two more in Bossier Parish.

There are now a total of 435,514 cases that have been reported in the state since the first case was confirmed a year ago Tuesday and 9,812 people have died from the coronavirus since the first death was reported on March 14.

On Wednesday, during a briefing announcing the latest expansion of vaccine eligibility, Gov. Edwards issued a proclamation declaring Sunday a day of prayer and remembrance for those lost to COVID-19.