SALEM (CBS) — Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll says the city is still seeing more visitors than they want this Halloween season. This weekend there will be additional restrictions in place to limit people downtown.
“Given the fact that so many businesses, attractions, restaurants, the things that are allowed to be open during this current Phase 3 in Massachusetts have reduced occupancies… it is creating congestion and lines outside of businesses where we see people waiting for long periods of time and not being able to maintain physical distancing,” Driscoll said in a news conference Friday.
In response, the city will be cutting access to the Essex Street pedestrian mall by taking away the west-end entrance and they’ll be putting up barriers along the mall to discourage people from standing in lines.
Businesses and visitors are asked to keep taking advantage of advanced reservations.
Salem typically attracts half a million visitors during October but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city is asking visitors without plans to not visit.
“We still can’t allow the sort of crowds who are gathering here to continue,” Driscoll said. “This is not the year to come to Salem.”
Parades, balls, and all large city events for Halloween were canceled back in August.
Still, the city has seen plenty of visitors.
“This year I would say anecdotally there is a younger crowd. They’re folks in their 20s and 30s and there’s just a sense of stir crazy, a little bit of wanderlust, there’s not a lot of planning going on. They’re clearly not getting the messages, all the advisories we’re putting out, the things that are on websites indicating that this isn’t the year to come,” said the mayor.
Driscoll also said Salem is a victim of the perception that Massachusetts is a safe state with low case counts. “People think coming here, from a travel perspective, there’s low risk of transmission or spread.”
Along with the state’s travel restrictions, Salem requires all visitors to share where they are from and whether they have tested negative for COVID-19 or plan to quarantine. Hotels and Airbnbs have seen received travelers from as far as Texas.
Salem is currently listed on the state map as yellow for having a moderate risk of coronavirus spread. Driscoll said the city has been seeing an uptick in several weeks, but the trend hasn’t been connected to visitors.
“Salem will be here after October. We’re advising anybody who is thinking about coming to our community to put it off until after October, to think about coming next October, if you have reservations or advanced ticketing that will help, but it will still not be the same experience,” Driscoll said.
Halloween is on a Saturday this year, something that typically brings even more visitors to Salem on Oct. 31. Driscoll said the city will be addressing restrictions for Halloween night at a later date.