Salem Board of Health Adopts Vaccine Requirement for Certain Businesses

Measure intended to help protect public health of those inside high-risk gathering places and help slow spread of COVID-19 in the community.
vax mask

On December 22, 2021 the Salem Board of Health voted to adopt measures that re-establish the city-wide indoor mask requirement effective immediately and establish a proof-of-vaccination requirement for entry into certain high-risk businesses on the schedule detailed below. These policies have been put in place in order to help keep Salem residents and employees safe. You can read both orders at www.salem.com/safesalem.

Starting on January 15, 2022, persons entering any of the types of establishments in the City of Salem listed below will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in the following phases:

Phase 1: Starting January 15, 2022, all individuals ages 12 and over are required to present proof of at least one dose of vaccination, in either a one-dose or two-dose series.

Phase 2: Starting March 1, 2022, all individuals ages 12 and over are required to present proof of either one dose of a one-dose vaccine series or two doses in a two-dose series. All individuals ages 5 to 11 are required to present proof of at least one dose of vaccination, in either a one-dose or two-dose series.

Phase 3: Starting May 1, 2022, all individuals ages 5 to 11 are required to present proof of either one dose of a one-dose vaccine series or two doses in a two-dose series.

This requirement applies to the following types of businesses in the City of Salem: movie theater, music and concert venues, commercial event and party venues, museums and galleries, haunted houses and similar attractions, escape rooms, exhibition spaces, performance venues, theaters, indoor sports facilities, bowling alleys, indoor portions of food service establishments offering food and drink including restaurants, indoor gyms and fitness centers, yoga/pilates/barre/dance studios, boxing/kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, indoor pools, and other facilities used for conducting group fitness classes.

The requirement does not apply to exclusively retail establishments, including grocery stores, or to any food service establishment offering food and/or drink exclusively for off-premises or outdoor consumption. It also does not apply to food service establishments providing charitable food services, such as pantries or soup kitchens.

“We need to use all the tools in our toolbox to address the current COVID-19 challenges and that means ensuring people are vaccinated to curb virus transmission and reduce the likelihood of hospitalization for those who contract COVID-19,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll. “With only 50% of young adults in Salem between the ages of 16 and 29 vaccinated and our local hospital at or near capacity, it’s important that we take action now to address rising COVID-19 case counts this winter. I hope that taking these measures will help our city stay safe, open, and strong. We want our businesses staffed and open, our kids attending in-person school uninterrupted and our hospitals available to meet our community's health and wellness needs. With so few beds available, we are at risk of not being able to provide critical care for residents, whether it's for COVID-19 or some other illness or injury. We will continue to work with our small business owners to implement public health measures. We also know, from our experience in October, that having strong public health protections in place encourages business, giving individuals greater comfort and peace of mind knowing they can patronize these locations more safely. Vaccine requirements, testing and masking up indoors are all part of the mix when it comes to beating back COVID-19 and ensuring safe restaurants and gathering places for everyone in Salem.”

“Given the rapid and dramatic rise of COVID-19 cases largely driven by the Omicron variant, we are highly concerned about Salem’s public health during these indoor winter months,” said Board of Health chair Dr. Jeremy Schiller. “The dramatic increase in cases coupled with the current near capacity at not only our local hospital in Salem but throughout the region, it is critical that we take further mitigation measures during this pandemic. We know that indoor masking and being vaccinated are two of our most potent mitigation measures against COVID-19. With that in mind, we have instituted an indoor mask mandate through March. We have also followed along with Boston and other neighboring cities and towns requiring proof of vaccination to access local restaurants and bars, gyms and fitness centers and indoor venues of entertainment. While the vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19, they are, like stop signs and speed limits, effective tools for reducing the risk of harm to oneself and others and are therefore not only ethical but necessary from a public health perspective. On behalf of the Board of Health, thank you for all that you are doing to keep yourself and our community safe.”

The City of Salem’s Economic Recovery Task Force will host a free online webinar for all Salem businesses interested in learning more about the new order and asking questions to help them successfully implement the new safety standards to protect their customers and employees. The webinar takes place on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. Registration is required and can be done at www.salem.com/safesalem. Questions can be submitted in advance of the webinar to together@salem.com; please include your name and business in your email. The webinar will be recorded and made available through the EDRR newsletter and at www.salem.com/together under “Worker and Employer Resources” on January 5, 2022.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are vaccinated individuals in these locations allowed to remove their masks?

Only if they are eating or drinking and then they should place their mask back on immediately after.

 

How will the City enforce the vaccine requirement?

The City will provide free signage to all businesses impacted by this new requirement and will conduct random checks to help customers comply. Signage is also available for download at www.salem.com/safesalem. Those who wish to notify the City about a potential violation of the requirement should email health@salem.com or call (978) 741-1800.

 

What are the penalties for violating the orders?

Per ordinance, the standard fine for orders of this nature is $50 for the first violation, $150 for the second violation, and $300 for third and subsequent violations, however Health Department inspectors will focus on warnings and guidance to help improve compliance and prioritize public health over issuing fines unless absolutely necessary.

 

Are there any exemptions at all for people entering these businesses to not have to show proof of vaccination?

Individuals entering a covered business for a short duration and limited purpose does not need to show proof of vaccination but must remain masked for the entirety of their time inside the premises. This would include those entering just to use a restroom, to place or pick up an order or service, making a delivery, or performing necessary repairs.

 

Does the vaccine order apply to employees?

Yes, this order applies to customers, fulltime and part-time employees, interns, volunteers, contractors, and performers.

 

What is an acceptable form of proof of vaccination?

The following forms of proof are acceptable: a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, a digital image of the CDC card, any other official immunization record from the jurisdiction, state, or country where the vaccine was administered or a digital image of such record, or any vaccine verification smartphone application developed or endorsed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the City of Salem. Any such proof of vaccination must include the person’s name, vaccine brand, and the date the vaccine dose was administered.

 

How should businesses implement this?

Covered businesses will be provided with free signage that should be posted at points of entry to their business. Employees who currently check ID for age verification or greet customers at check-in booths, ticket windows, or host stations should ask for each customer to show proof of vaccination as specified in the order. In the event a covered business has no such staff, proof of vaccination should be shown to an employee at the first point of contact with the customer inside the business. If a customer fails to provide such proof they should be informed that Salem Board of Health requires this proof for entry to the establishment and without it they will not be able to enter the private property establishment. Businesses that require additional assistance in planning for implementation can contact the Board of Health at health@salem.com.

 

How long will this requirement be in effect?

The vaccine order is in effect until further notice, but will be taken up for review by the Board of Health at its March meeting. The Board routinely monitors critical public health metrics and data related to case rates, positivity rates, hospitalization, hospital capacity, and vaccination rates. The renewed indoor mask order ends on March 8, 2022 unless otherwise extended by the Board of Health.

 

Why are indoor recreational and athletic facilities and museums included in this order, since you do not need to remove your mask to participate in those activities?

Certain types of non-dining establishments are included in this order because they are either high-respiratory or they entail gathering with large numbers of other people, generally in close proximity and for extended periods of time.

 

What establishments are covered by the indoor mask order?

In any indoor public space or private space open to the public in the City of Salem, masks must be worn over the nose and mouth by all persons over the age of 2 except for those individuals for whom a medical condition or disability prevent such. Masks may be removed when seated and eating or drinking and when in individual rooms, not common areas, of lodging establishments. Masks may be temporarily removed by customers at personal service establishments when receiving care involving the face, but must be put back on for the remainder of the visit.

 

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine in Salem?

There are numerous locations in and around Salem that provide all the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines for individuals age 5 and up. You can find details at www.salem.com/vaccine.

 

What should I do if I have additional questions not covered here?

Please email additional questions to health@salem.com.