SALEM, MA – The biggest month of the year in Salem is going to be one massive balancing act this year as officials look to promote business, and allow residents and visitors to have a little fun, while keeping crowds moving and to a minimum due to the coronavirus health crisis.
The city canceled all major Halloween events — such as the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade and the Mayor’s Night Out — but is bracing for an influx of visitors throughout the month to annual attractions of the holiday’s unofficial hometown.
“There is no gate around the city,” Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll told the Salem City Council at its last virtual meeting. “While places are going to be open, we want to make sure they are operating within the requirements.”
Driscoll said Salem police have already seen a steady increase in traffic into Salem during the nice weather weekends of September and that is only expected to increase in October.
“We can’t change Halloween,” Driscoll said. “It’s on the calendar.
“It’s our expectation that even though we’re not doing marketing people are still going to show up,” she added.
Driscoll told the City Council that it’s unlikely street performers, or buskers, will be able to perform in their usual locations because of social distancing protocols that require crowds not gather and people keep moving.
Driscoll said she expects there could be an influx of new visitors this year with other area destination events — such as the Topsfield Fair — not happening due to the virus. But, unlike a fair that can simply be canceled and no one shows up, Salem cannot close its downtown with businesses looking to recapture some of the income lost when they were shut down this spring and now limited with coronavirus restrictions still in place.
“This is not the year just to pop into Salem,” Driscoll urged. “Think about what your itinerary is going to be.”
She added that may include reservations and advanced tickets for restaurants and any tours or museums that can open, but which don’t typically require advanced planning.
She said “plans will be fluid” this year with police monitoring busy walkways and roads throughout the month to determine whether they need to be closed temporarily or restricted to one-way foot and vehicle traffic.
A mandatory mask order in public is in effect for much of downtown.
“We are trying to create an environment where people know and expect mask are required,” said Driscoll, adding that recent monitoring has shown about a 90 percent mask compliance rate.
The Salem Board of Health is meeting Tuesday night to determine whether the city — which has stabilized its coronavirus test rates since it designated was a “red” hot spot community in the state six weeks ago — will allow the eased restrictions on restaurants that took effect in most of the state as of Monday in Salem.
Another Halloween tradition that will look different this year istrick-or-treating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidance discouraging door-to-door trick-or-treating, as well as the increasingly popular trunk-or-treating where groups of people gather in parking lots and kids go from car to car collecting candy and treats.
Driscoll indicated she is hoping Gov. Charlie Baker will provide statewide guidance to avoid having people traveling from community to community based on different sets of restrictions.
“If we don’t have a unified message, we will have people doing things whether you want to do them or not,” she said. “We want you to experience something positive without putting others’ health at risk.
“We’re going to have some real rules around it no matter what it is — on or off or somewhere in between,” she added.
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This article originally appeared on the Salem Patch