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New Orleans eases pandemic restrictions on bars

NEW ORLEANS — Starting this weekend, New Orleans bars will be allowed to sell drinks to go and restaurants may operate at 75% indoor capacity instead of 50% since a number of coronavirus indicators have stayed low, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.

The limit for restaurants and other businesses matches the state limit set weeks ago. If all goes well, New Orleans could match all state reopening levels by Oct. 31, with two more possible groups of changes, Cantrell said Thursday at a livestreamed news conference.

Those will depend on public response “ensuring we are a healthy city not only to live in but to visit,” she said.


Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards let some bars reopen and restaurants and other businesses move to 75% of indoor capacity on Sept. 11. New Orleans, which had shut down bars in July, did not follow suit.

French Quarter and downtown stores cannot sell package liquor outside bars’ state-set hours of 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. because when bars were allowed to reopen earlier, “crowds continued drinking package liquor” after 11 p.m., the mayor said.

Cantrell said the city had closed six businesses as of Wednesday for flouting pandemic restrictions.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Push to bring coronavirus vaccines to the poor faces trouble

— In Appalachia, people watch COVID-19, race issues from afar

— NFL postpones Steelers-Titans game after more positive tests

— The White House is backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and possible COVID-19 relief bill with a price tag above $1.5 trillion.

— France’s health minister is threatening to close bars and ban family gatherings, if the rise in virus cases doesn’t improve.

— Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week to a still-high 837,000, suggesting the economy is struggling to sustain a tentative recovery from the summer.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky reported 17 more coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, one of its highest one-day totals as the state combats an escalating outbreak.

The latest deaths included a 29-year-old woman from Clark County who had “significant underlying health conditions,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. Her death marked the first coronavirus-linked fatality of someone in their 20s to be reported in Kentucky, he said.

The 17 deaths were the fifth-highest daily total in Kentucky since the start of the pandemic, he said.

The state also reported 910 new cases of COVID-19, down from the prior two days when daily case counts topped 1,000, the governor said. The spike in cases is hitting rural and urban areas, and Beshear said the state remains on course to set another record for the number of cases in a week.

“When we have a lot of cases, sadly a lot of death follows,” Beshear said at a news conference.

The Democratic governor continued to stress the need to wear masks in public, maintain social distancing and follow other health guidelines to contain