Masks mandatory in Salem essential businesses under emergency order

Masks mandatory in Salem essential businesses under emergency order

SALEM, Mass. — The city of Salem, Mass., has issued an emergency order requiring all people inside essential businesses to wear masks or some form of face covering, effective Sunday.

Mayor Kim Driscoll told Boston 25 News she and the city's public health officials are concerned about the uptick in coronavirus cases and the death of a grocery store worker.

Vitalina Williams was a part-time associate of Market Basket in Salem, as well as a full-time employee of Walmart in Lynn.

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Her husband, David Williams, told Boston 25 News this week his wife initially showed flu-like symptoms at the end of March. Within a few days, she experienced difficulty breathing and needed a respirator at the hospital. Days later, she died.

"When we're talking about these front line employees in particular, working in these essential businesses that we need, trying to keep them healthy, trying to keep them safe and then trying to keep obviously members of the public from any unintended transmission," Driscoll said, "this face covering is an extra precaution to try and flatten that curve."

Driscoll said Salem has 117 positive cases - more than nearby cities and towns of similar size. At North Shore Medical Center Salem Campus, there are more than 100 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

"We're a little bit of a hot spot," Driscoll said. "We're still not at the peak. We’re a week away from what epidemiologists are telling us will be the peak, and these extra precautions can really make a difference."

Salem's Board of Health asks the public not to wear surgical mask or N-95 respirators that are meant for health care workers and first responders, but instead to wear a a cloth mask, scarf or bandana over the nose and mouth.

The order also requires residents of apartment buildings to wear the masks in all communal areas, including hallways and elevators.

Public health personnel and police will enforce the regulation and can issue fines. But the purpose of the order is not to ticket people, Driscoll said.

“We really hope we don’t have to take it to a point where we’re issuing a ticket or a fine, but I think the board wanted to send a serious message that this is not an advisory, it is an order,” Driscoll said. “We need to keep our essential workers safe, and we need to keep each other safe.”