Salem and Somerville officials: This Halloween, people really have something to be afraid of

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors wear masks as they walk along the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors wear masks as they walk along the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors pose alongside the Bewitched Sculpture on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: A visitor wears a witches hat on the Town Common in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors wear masks as they walk along the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: The ghoulish scene inside the Witch Mansion Haunted House on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: The ghoulish scene inside the Witch Mansion Haunted House on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors stop to view the Charter Street Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: The ghoulish scene inside the Witch Mansion Haunted House on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors wear masks as they walk along the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: The ghoulish scene inside the Witch Mansion Haunted House on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: The ghoulish scene inside the Witch Mansion Haunted House on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors wear masks as they walk along the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors wear masks as they walk along the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Salem, MA: October 16, 2020: Visitors pose alongside the Bewitched Sculpture on the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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The Witch City’s mayor is urging people to stay away this Halloween to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with Somerville officials also moving to forgo trick-or-treating.

“This is not the year to come to Salem,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said at a press conference Friday. “We can’t allow the sorts of crowds we’re seeing.”

Famous for its 1692 witch trials, the city is the go-to spot for all things Halloween, and not everyone is heeding the mayor’s advice.

“I think the city’s plan was for mostly Massachusetts people to come for Halloween, but it hasn’t turned out that way,” said Kelsey Tenore, general manager of the Ledger restaurant, which has opened a takeout window and tent so that people can dine outdoors to try to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

“Most have been from out of state,” Tenore said. “I think people are going to come regardless. We’ve had reservations for the last month or two.”

Danielle Mathes of Putnam County, W.Va., and her friends already had flight and hotel reservations before the Salem mayor began asking people to stay away on Halloween.

“So we would have been out a lot of money if we’d canceled,” Mathes said as she waited in line to get into the Nightmare Gallery Monster Museum. “We just wanted a fun girls’ trip.”

John Denley, one of the owners of the Witch Mansion, said to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus, he replaced all of his actors with animatronic witches, some that talk, others that jump out at you.

“I understand the mayor’s position. She has to do a difficult balancing act, and I respect that,” Denley said. “The only thing is 70% of our business is done in October. And this year, it’s certainly down, even though we’ve taken every safety precaution.”

Beginning Saturday, Salem officials will restrict access from the Peabody Essex Museum side of the Essex Street pedestrian mall, which has had large crowds this month. All tents on the mall will be prohibited, and more barricades will be set up to limit entry lines.

Somerville officials, meanwhile, have called off the annual Haunted Hall event and block parties, limited gatherings to 10 people and urged people not to trick-or-treat.

“While celebrating holidays and observing traditions can provide a boost to your mental health, it is critical that we all commit to doing so safely,” said Somerville Health and Human Services Director Doug Kress.

“The safest option is always to only gather with those you live with,” he added. “But if you do decide to go out, please follow CDC guidelines for reducing COVID-19 risk, such as wearing face coverings, maintaining a six-foot distance from others, and frequent hand washing or sanitizing. Remember, it takes only one infected person to spread this disease among a group.”

Lowell is prohibiting door-to-door trick-or-treating as have Ayer, Leicester, Springfield and Worcester. It’s still allowed in Boston, for now.

 

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