Halloween revelers would need to test negative for COVID before attending large, ticketed, indoor events in Salem, Massachusetts, this October under a proposal being considered on Friday.
The Witch City's board of health will hold a special meeting on the subject, Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a Facebook post Thursday.
"Given what we have seen with the Delta variant and what we know about the number of out of state attendees at these events (balls, festivals, parties, etc.), I believe this is an entirely reasonable precaution to take," she wrote.
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Salem draws about half a million people each year during the Halloween season for large events like haunted houses, a parade, parties and more. The annual Haunted Happenings celebrations were dramatically scaled back last year, but are back on for 2021.
Driscoll said Salem is talking to a vendor, Curative, about setting up a central testing site downtown that would offer free, 15-minute rapid tests for people headed to large, ticketed, indoor events, as well as the public. Curative ran some of Massachusetts' mass vaccination sites.
The COVID testing proposal was developed over the last month and discussed with organizers of large events, Driscoll said. The city would pay for the testing with COVID relief funding.
Salem has a 2% COVID positivity rate -- slightly below the state's recent average -- and low hospitalization numbers, Driscoll said, but metrics are rising both among unvaccinated and vaccinated people. City officials believe that's because of the delta variant, which is more infectious than previous COVID variants.
"Ensuring that those attending events have a recent negative COVID test will help limit potential spread associated with these well attended events – all of which were canceled last year," Driscoll wrote, adding that the city's indoor mask mandate won't help stop COVID transmission while people are eating and drinking.
Anyone with comments about the proposed policy can share them with the board of health at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Driscoll's comments came as Gov. Charlie Baker said the state is exploring options for a vaccine verification system, saying that having one "will be important for a whole bunch of reasons."