SALEM, Mass. — After canceling outdoor events in August, implementing a mask order, and continuously asking visitors to steer clear from Salem, the city has found limited success in deterring tourism.
Starting Saturday, access to the Peabody Essex Museum side of the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall will be limited, tents on the mall will be banned and barricades will be set up to limit lines. Downtown businesses that have not yet set up reservation systems for customers will be asked to do so again, the city is even offering financial assistance to those who cannot comply.
“We’re still seeing more people than we’d like,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll.
October is traditionally the biggest month for businesses in Salem’s cramped downtown, and while there are limits for hotel occupancy, and restaurant capacity, thousands are still flocking to Salem and causing congestion the city fears could add to the uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“If you’re not in Salem yet and are thinking about coming, my advice to you is skip it,” Driscoll said. “Skip it until after October.”
On the state’s COVID-19 community risk map, Salem is in “yellow,” with 7.1 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, according to the Department of Public Health.
City leaders say there is a slight uptick in the case count of late.
Driscoll said a recent outbreak at a jail may have had an impact on Salem, along with a daycare, elder care facility and restaurant workers who tested positive.
The city is also concerned about Halloween, which falls on a Saturday, and on a typical year, could draw as many as 50,000 people on that day alone.
Road closures and fewer trains are part of another wave of restrictions, along with stepped up police enforcement.
To this point, police resources have been used consistent with recent years, said Acting Chief of Police, Dennis King.
“There is a plan in place that is moving as the mayor said, as we get closer into next week, we’ll have some solidified plans in terms of what that actually looks like,” King added.
Boston 25 News contacted Salem State University to see what has been communicated to students regarding gatherings on or off campus.
In August, Salem State University sent a letter to students and families outlining expectations and consequences regarding health and safety for the community in residence halls and elsewhere.
Students are not permitted to have more than one guest in dorms and off-campus, they are subject to gathering limits set by the city, according to the university.
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