U.S. New Orleans to ease restrictions as COVID-19 cases drop

By Gao Lu

HOUSTON, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. southern city of New Orleans will ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions after COVID-19 cases declined for three consecutive weeks, an official said on Wednesday.

"The small strides we've made will allow us to inch back towards normalcy," local media quoted the city's Health Department Director Jennifer Avegno as saying.

Starting from Friday at 6 a.m., New Orleans will enter the modified "Phase 2" of restrictions that will see restaurants and other businesses double their capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent over the next three weeks.

However, indoor bar service will remain canceled until at least Feb. 19 even if the city's positivity rate stays below the 5 percent threshold the state has set.

Meanwhile, New Orleans public school officials on Wednesday announced that public school buildings will reopen starting Feb. 1. Students in different grades will have specific schedules of in-person classes and students in all grades will continue to have the option of all-remote learning.

Daily COVID-19 cases in New Orleans have dropped from its peak on Jan. 9 when 266 cases were added. The positivity rate dipped to 4 percent for the first time in weeks on Wednesday, following a Dec. 30 high of 10.4 percent.

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