BOSTON (CBS) — In a normal year, visitors from all over the world flock to Salem during the month of October. Even more visitors were anticipated this year, since October is five weekends long and Halloween is on a Saturday. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic changed that.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll sat down with WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller to discuss the struggle.
“We were geared up for a terrific month of celebrations. Obviously, due to COVID, we had to cancel all of our events in August yet we’re still seeing people coming into our community. There’s reduced numbers but still too many in terms of the level of comfort and the congestion that we can handle,” she said.
According to Driscoll, most visitors are in their 20s and 30s. “I get the sense they’re just cooped up and looking for something to do and despite the warnings, the advisories, no planning or thought, just showing up and want to walk around.”
Her advice is to visit the city after October.
“Twenty years of marketing our city for fall activities and then one year of saying don’t come, it’s clear not everybody is getting that message and they’re showing up anyways.”
Despite the concern over visitors, the uptick in cases in Salem has not been tied to them. “Our biggest worry is those close, familial contacts,” Discroll said.
In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh blamed a rise in coronavirus cases to house parties. Driscoll said she shares that concern, but Salem State University is working to help the city.
“For us, it’s a great partnership with Salem State, I mean the students who had an off-campus party were all disciplined on-campus, some of which were thrown out of school. So they’re taking a hard stance with us. They’re doing a ton of testing and trying to maintain as much vigilance as we can with young folks,” she said.
Driscoll said Salem is following DPH guidelines when it comes to trick-or-treating. “We’re not expecting the same typical trick-or-treating routines here but we also felt like the DPH guidelines were a good guide to those.”
Much like the rest of the country, Salem has taken a financial hit during the pandemic.
“Last quarter of the last fiscal year which ended on June 30th, we saw that downturn from the complete shutdown here in Massachusetts, as we start up there is reduced occupancy, local receipts are down. We know our hotels first quarter were down 55%, our meals tax revenues were down 35%,” Driscoll said.
She explained that without federal assistance, next year might hold “stiff, stiff reductions in revenues.”
While staffing is the city’s biggest expense, Driscoll said, layoffs would be difficult since there is also an increased need for workers.
“You don’t really want to cut your way out of this pandemic,” she said.
Driscoll ended by reminding citizens: “We’ve all worked hard, wearing our masks, washing our hands, practicing hygiene, and taking care of each other. We have seen communities really come together to support each other, we need to keep that happening. It’s been a long time, folks are stir crazy, if we can be kind to each other, be selfless, and think about that social compact we have of keeping each other healthy.”