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Salem 'Witch City' Massachusetts to triple fines over Halloween weekend amid coronavirus pandemic

Salem 'Witch City' Massachusetts to triple fines over Halloween weekend amid coronavirus pandemic

The city of Salem, Mass., typically a popular tourist destination around Halloween, announced on Wednesday that it will be tripling fines typically implemented over the holiday in order to limit the number of people visiting amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a press release on Wednesday, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll outlined that fines usually given in the period of Oct. 30 through Nov. 1 for noise violations, resident parking violations, public intoxication and other disturbances will be tripled this year to discourage travel to the site of the Salem witch trials. 

“While we have seen around half the visitors to Salem this October than we’ve had in previous years, we still have had large numbers of people here throughout the month,” Driscoll said in the press release. 

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“Ordinarily, there is no better place to celebrate Halloween than Salem,” she continued. “Our first priority from the outset of this pandemic has been keeping residents, employees, and visitors healthy and safe. To help ensure we can meet that goal, we are taking action to limit the number of people who will be in Salem on Halloween and the day prior.”

The announcement comes after the city announced in August the cancellation of its Salem Haunted Happenings events, which usually play a large role in boosting the city’s economy each year. 

In addition to the increased fines, the city added in the press release that businesses will be asked to close early on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24, with a Board of Health Executive Order requiring early closures of businesses is anticipated for Oct. 30 and Oct. 31.

The city’s statement on Wednesday also outlined restrictions on city parking garages, commuter trains traveling through Salem and pedestrian traffic in the city, with the press release saying that “police may close the pedestrian mall entirely for periods of time to de-densify crowds.” 

The city added that no events will be held by the city on Oct. 31, which includes the cancellation of all outdoor music stages and performances, beer gardens and other activities, including the usual Halloween fireworks. The city said that businesses should prepare to close no later than 8 p.m. on Halloween. 

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With the additional restrictions, the city said in the statement that any “visitors who are planning to come to Salem that weekend should postpone their visit.” 

Driscoll said at a press conference on Wednesday that Salem’s hotel tax revenues are already down 55 percent this year, with restaurant taxes down 35 percent from last year due to reduced travel amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September issued warnings against "higher risk activities" on Halloween that could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, including traditional trick-or-treating, indoor costume parties and visiting haunted houses.

“There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween,” the guidance stated, before listing “lower risk” activities, such as pumpkin carving with members of your household.

While Wednesday’s statement from Salem said that the decision for families to trick-or-treat is for them to make, it recommended that families socially distance from others and wear face masks at all times, adding that anyone choosing to participate should not be out past 8 p.m.

Massachusetts reported a total of 646 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as well as 22 new deaths. In total, the state’s department of public health has recorded 142,941 coronavirus infections, with 9,559 dead as a result of the virus.