Strict rules start in Salem this Halloween weekend in an attempt to scare off tourists that officials say could spread the coronavirus. Even with the restrictions and the snow, visitors were flocking to the Witch City on Friday to celebrate.
Despite the cancellation of all Haunted Happening events this year and the announcement of a series of new coronavirus rules in recent weeks, the popular Halloween destination continues to draw crowds.
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The city added even more stringent measures this weekend to avoid a COVID-19 super-spreading event, including curfews for businesses, and reduced train stops and parking spots.
Police will be stationed throughout the city to redirect visitors out of town. If that’s still not enough to deter non-residents, authorities will be ticketing and towing illegally parked vehicles.
As they do every year, fines for various offenses are tripled during the holiday weekend. The city is also discouraging large Halloween parties and telling families to trick-or-treat at their own risk.
Downtown businesses are required to close at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, including museums, restaurants and walking tours. The pedestrian mall may close if it gets too crowded.
“It’s understandable, but it is going to be tough having to close early on everybody,” Tim Maguire, the owner of the Halloween Museum said.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said she does not want the city to be a ghost town on Halloween, but she had to do something to control the crowds. She said the city is already dangerously close to being in the high-risk category for cases.
In an effort to stop the spread, she is asking tourists to postpone their trip if they do not already have reservations for this weekend.
“We know so many people want to be here and celebrate, but again it’s just not the year. With the virus and the uptick, we just want to keep everyone safe,” Driscoll said.
More Coverage on Halloween in Salem During COVID
A clamp down on street parking will be in place, banning any new traffic starting at noon Friday until Sunday, except for proven residents or downtown workers.
The commuter rail will skip Salem altogether Friday night after 7 p.m. and Saturday starting at 11 a.m. The MBTA garage is limited to transit riders only.
Those staying overnight in Salem are required to fill out the city’s travel form. On Friday, many tourists were already filling the streets and said they were not spooked by all of the restrictions.
“They told us not to come, but we came anyway. We’re going to have fun no matter what,” Gina Werner, a tourist from Chicago said.
“It feels like a Christmas Halloween,” said Desi Robinson of New York City. “Which is odd.”
“Because I’m a witch and where else would I be,” said Allie Pace, a witch from New York state.
“Yeah, you’re a little bit worried but you also know that if you take the proper precautions, you’re going to be ok,” said Katie Sitko of Pennsylvania.