Salem Approves Indoor Mask Mandate, COVID Vaccine Requirement

The board of health in Salem, Massachusetts, voted Wednesday to require masks in indoor public spaces, as well as proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for certain businesses

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The board of health in Salem, Massachusetts, approved a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, as well as a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for people inside certain businesses.

The board voted Wednesday to require proof of vaccination for customers at movie theaters and gyms, as well as people eating indoors at restaurants.



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Mayor Kim Driscoll says COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city, and that there's little capacity left in local hospitals.

"If you need a hospital bed, there's no wiggle room, and I think that's the main concern driving the vaccination requirements and mask requirements," Driscoll said.

The vote comes a day after a meeting at which the Salem Board of Health endorsed Driscoll's recommendation of a vaccine requirement for all city and school employees.

Dr. David Roberts, president of North Shore Medical Center, sounded the alarm Tuesday night when he told the city's board of health that Salem Hospital often operates at 98% capacity.

"I’m a lot worried that we're going to get overwhelmed if we have another wave of COVID on the North Shore," Roberts said. "We're kind of overwhelmed in current state. We don't have the capacity to take care of patients coming to us now."

The Salem Board of Health met Tuesday night but did not come to a final decision on expanding the current mask mandate that is in place.

In downtown Salem, business managers and owners spoke to NBC10 Boston Tuesday night about the possible return of a mask mandate in their stores.

“If you feel like you should wear a mask then you can go right ahead and wear it if you want to but I don't think it should be mandated by the town of Salem," one man said at the Army Barracks store.

“I think it’s a great idea," Laura Lanes said. "We have to keep it with masking and being vaccinated, it's been working for us.”

Salem just implemented a new mask mandate for public buildings that went into effect on Monday. It remains to be seen if the city will expand that mandate to all buildings.

Starting Monday, masks are required in all public buildings in Salem, Massachusetts, and the Board of Health will discuss possibly expanding that at a meeting Tuesday night. The mayor says the time to have the discussion is now.

The mask mandate that took effect Monday will continue "until further notice," the city said. Masks are required inside all city buildings in Salem, for both employees and the public. This includes people who have been vaccinated.

The buildings covered by the mandate include City Hall, City Hall Annex, the Community Life Center, the Salem Public Library, the On Point Center, Old Town Hall, park buildings, the Salem Police Station, and all Salem fire stations.

With the holidays coming up and cases at current levels, it is important to have this conversation now, Mayor Kim Driscoll said.

"We are seeing an uptick in case counts, there is no doubt about that," Driscoll said in an interview. "We don't want to wish we acted three weeks from now and be faced with a situation that isn't good for our community."

Salem had an indoor mask mandate in place from August through November.

Other cities and towns have mask mandates in place for municipal offices, and some even have them in place for all indoor spaces.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has said he has no plans to bring back a statewide mask mandate, as he thinks that's a decision that should be handled locally. He reiterated that position during a news conference on Monday.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday that starting this week the state will begin distributing over 2.1 million free COVID-19 rapid at-home tests to communities across Massachusetts.

"Keep in mind, we are in a very different place than we were in before," Baker said.

During a television appearance on Sunday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu also said he has no plans to implement a mask mandate despite a spike in COVID cases, comparing it to being put "in the penalty box" in ice hockey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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