At a special meeting on September 17th, the Salem Board of Health voted unanimously to institute a requirement for the month of October that any person attending a large indoor event be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event in order to enter.
The policy applies to events held indoors between October 1 and October 31, inclusive of those dates, where there will be more than 100 people attending.
To help event attendees meet this new safety standard, the City is standing up a free rapid testing site in downtown Salem on the days of and prior to every qualifying event. In addition, the City continues to maintain two free “Stop the Spread” PCR testing sites, a walk-up site downtown at St. Peter’s Church and a drive-through site at Salem High School, which is also a satellite parking lot for the free October shuttle. Details about all of the testing sites in Salem can be found at www.salem.com/testing.
“Given what we know about the Delta variant, the increasing case numbers being seen generally across Massachusetts, and the number of out-of-state attendees who come to these large October events, I believe this is an entirely reasonable precaution to take,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll. “Ensuring that those attending these events have a recent negative COVID test should help limit potential spread in our community, mitigating the potential increase in virus transmission from our high rates of visitation in October. We have front line employees working in our hotels and larger venues who may have children under 12 or immune compromised individuals they go home to after these events, and we want to provide another layer of protection against spread to them during the busy Haunted Happenings season. Having a free, negative testing protocol in place as a requirement to entry for large scale, indoor events is a reasonable and evidence-based approach to keeping Salem safe, open and strong throughout the busy Halloween season. I believe our Board of Health members have done an outstanding job throughout this pandemic and have based their decisions on what is in the best interest of the public health of our community. We’re all doing as much as we can to protect the health and safety of our residents and our workforce. I’m grateful for the volunteer service of our neighbors and experts on the Board for the time and commitment they are putting into this incredibly important work.”
“Given the steady rise of Covid cases particularly with the Delta variant in both Massachusetts and in Salem, we feel it is necessary that Salem take further precautions to protect ourselves and our community during the Halloween season,” said Dr. Jeremy Schiller, chair of the Board of Health. “Covid testing for large indoor events will help ensure that we can all safely enjoy the unique events that take place in our City during the month of October. Thank you Salemites and all who are visiting from out of town for all that you are doing to protect yourselves and our community during this pandemic.”
Frequently Asked Questions
I am vaccinated, do I still need a negative test?
Yes, this policy applies to everyone, regardless of their vaccination status. The reason for this is that vaccinated individuals can still transmit the virus to others. A negative test confirms that the event attendee is unlikely to transmit the virus, whether or not they are vaccinated to protect their own health.
Are masks still required inside the event?
Yes, all aspects of the Board’s existing order requiring masks inside places open to the public continue to apply for these events. You can read the mask order at www.salem.com/masks.
Why not just require proof of vaccination?
As stated above, vaccination protects the vaccinated individual from severe illness and death, but it is not a preventative measure against transmission. Negative testing and masks will help protect event attendees, venue employees and staff, their families, and our larger community after these events have ended and visitors have left Salem.
What kinds of testing is acceptable? Can I self-test with an over-the-counter rapid test?
For the purposes of this policy, event attendees need to show a negative PCR or rapid antigen test that was administered by a testing service or healthcare provider within 72 hours of the event date. Antibody tests and self-administered tests of any type are not acceptable. Find testing locations at www.salem.com/testing.
What if I have tested positive for COVID within the last 90 days and have fully recovered but will not be able to provide a negative test?
If you cannot obtain a negative test due to your recent recovery from COVID-19, you will need medical documentation of recovery from COVID-19 within 90 days of the event. Pursuant to CDC travel guidance found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html, “medical documentation of recovery” means documentation of positive viral test results and a letter from a healthcare provider or public health official stating you have been cleared for travel.
Does this order apply to event staff?
No, the order applies to guests, patrons, and other members of the public. Event staff or venue employees are welcome and encouraged to use the free COVID-19 testing sites listed at www.salem.com/testing, however. Staff and employees are also encouraged to get vaccinated to protect themselves; more details can be found at www.salem.com/vaccine.
What is the legal basis for this order?
The Board of Health has the authority to establish orders to protect public health based on Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 111 sections 31 and 104 and 310 C.M.R. 11.05. This order applies to events taking place in establishments and venues licensed and governed by the laws, regulations, and ordinances of the City and the Commonwealth.
The event venue has open windows, is it still considered “indoors?”
Yes, an event inside a building is considered an indoor event, whether or not exterior windows are open in the venue.
Do I need to present a negative COVID test to dine in a restaurant or enter an attraction that has a capacity of more than 100 people?
No. You are required to wear a mask indoors in all public spaces, but proof of a negative COVID test is only required for largescale events or parties that are indoors. his is because visitors to a museum or indoor attraction will keep their masks on for the duration of the experience, and patrons of a restaurant are required to wear a mask at all times they are not seated and are seated with their own party. Large scale events and parties feature a mingling atmosphere with drinking and eating, when masks will be removed temporarily, which creates the potential for spread of the virus.
I have other questions about this policy. Who should I contact?
You may contact email@example.com or call (978) 741-1800.
I am an event organizer and my event falls within the parameters of this policy (indoors, in October, with more than 100 people in attendance). What do I need to do?
Your event staff should request that attendees show proof of a negative COVID-19 testing administered as described above within 72 hours of your event before that attendee is admitted into the venue. This can take the form of paper, images on a phone, or an email from the testing provider. If you are unsure what to ask for or if you believe you may require assistance on the date of your event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. It is recommended that you contact ticket holders as soon as possible to notify them about this new policy. Sample language for your communication to ticket holders: “We are writing to inform you that the Salem Board of Health has instituted a requirement that for entry into large indoor events in October, including this event, individuals must show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid antigen test administered within 72 hours of the event. You can find multiple testing options, most of them free of charge, being offered throughout Salem at www.salem.com/testing. If you have questions about this requirement, please contact the Board of Health at email@example.com or call (978) 741-1800. Thank you, in advance, for helping to keep Salem safe, open, and strong!”
I am an event organizer and, while my event does not fall within the parameters of this policy, I would still like to require negative testing or proof of vaccination from attendees to my event. Is this permissible and may my attendees still visit the City’s COVID-19 testing sites?
Yes, and it is encouraged, especially if your event is indoors, that you request a negative COVID-19 test from your attendees. Anyone can visit the testing sites listed at www.salem.com/testing, even if they are not attending a 100+ person event covered by the Board’s order. In addition, attractions, events, and businesses have a right to require proof of vaccination from customers, if they wish.