COVID-19 concerns remain as Salem and Topsfield celebrate fall traditions – .

COVID-19 concerns remain as Salem and Topsfield celebrate fall traditions – .

A year ago, the deadly threat posed by the coronavirus forced communities like Salem and Topsfield to drastically reduce their traditional fall events. In Salem, that meant a scaled-down Halloween celebration, while in Topsfield, the community’s historic fair was canceled.

Today, even as the state is more than halfway through the second year of the pandemic, it has made progress in its fight against COVID-19.

Vaccines are widely available, and nearly three-quarters of the state’s 7 million people have received at least one injection. Schools have reopened, but with mask requirements in place. Large-scale events are back, like the football games in Foxborough and the Boston Marathon, scheduled for October 11, but with precautionary measures in place.

On Saturday, as Salem hosted its annual Zombie Walk, while the Topsfield Fair welcomed guests for activities such as making their own honeycomb candles or visiting the fair’s ‘cow of the day’, with restrictions in place.

In Topsfield, Kaitlyn Kelley, 31, of Cambridge, said the hubbub at the fair had distracted her dozen of family members from the need to wear masks for an afternoon. Her sons, aged 4 and 1, had gone to a nearby turkey cage.

“It’s hard to remember to wear one when you’re caught up in the excitement,” Kelley said, realizing that she was not masked. “I should probably put mine on right away. “

Topsfield and Salem have each imposed COVID-19 precautionary measures. At the fair, masks were required inside all of the fair’s buildings, and free masks were distributed from information kiosks, according to the fair’s website. Topsfield’s health department was also present at the event to administer the vaccines.

Organizers asked anyone who had been ill in the past 24 hours not to attend.

In Salem, which has seen a growing number of new cases in recent weeks, the city remains on its toes as it welcomes visitors to celebrate its “Haunted Happenings” for the Halloween season. Masks must be worn in indoor public spaces and COVID-19 testing is required 72 hours in advance for attendees of large indoor gatherings.

Mayor Kim Driscoll has encouraged any visitor to get tested before heading to Salem, and the city has opened a rapid antigen testing site at the Peabody Essex Museum from Wednesday to Saturday in October, she said on twitter.

“Testing is a key way to reduce the transmission of COVID between residents + visitors,” Driscoll said in the Twitter post.

Dr David Hamer, a doctor at Boston Medical Center and an epidemiologist at Boston University, said people should feel safe participating, even without a mask, in outdoor events where the risk of transmission is low. . Indoors, they should take precautions like masking and keeping a distance.

This caution about masking and distancing should also extend, he said, to areas where people line up, such as queues to enter a stadium or order food.

“People have to take it seriously, but I think people can try to live their lives,” Hamer said. “If they are vaccinated and focus as much as possible on outdoor type events… if they are indoors, I think using the mask will be a wise precaution for many months to come. “

The state continues to fight the pandemic. The state reported more than 1,500 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as well as 20 new deaths. Those figures, which were the last available on Saturday, brought the death toll here to 18,260. Nearly 760,000 people in Massachusetts have been ill with the coronavirus.

About two-thirds of the state’s population are fully immunized.

But until low vaccination rates in other parts of the country improve, there is still a threat that infected people will travel to states with better vaccination coverage, such as Massachusetts.

“The risk is much lower here, but not zero,” Hamer said.

At Topsfield on Saturday, tight crowds surrounded stalls selling food and merchandise ranging from fudge and fried chicken to leather jackets and pearl necklaces. In the cool autumn breeze, hundreds of people cheered on the participants in a hot dog tasting contest.

A nearly 2,100-pound pumpkin that had won the grand prize at the fair’s weigh-in sat in a place of honor behind a glass roof.

Andrew Sinkewicz, a Georgetown native who has frequented the fair for two decades, said he had never seen one so large.

“Over the past decade,” said Sinkewicz, “they’ve clearly understood something. “

Outside, most fairgoers have chosen not to wear masks. But a majority put face masks on their noses in closed areas like the arena, barn, and fruit and vegetable stall. Several vendors working in food trucks and outdoor stalls did not have face covers.

Brooke Finan, 33, of Boston, who attended the fair with her boyfriend, said the fair had reasonable mask restrictions.

“I think it’s a good job figuring out where the masks are needed – and where taking them off is acceptable,” she said.

In Salem, resident Lauren Goldman expressed concern over the size of the crowd in her community on Saturday. But she said she felt safe knowing that many people had been vaccinated.

“There’s a reason October 2 looks like October 22 here,” said Goldman, a 65-year-old insurance agent. “People missed it. “

Jay Valentino, 35, and Orsola Almodovar, 34, who drove four hours from Staten Island to kick off the Halloween season, were aware of COVID-19 as they visited Salem with their two 3-year-old daughters.

Almost all of the activity on their Saturday itinerary took place outdoors, including visits to locations featured in the family movie “Hocus Pocus”. Their daughters were in the spirit, dressed in pointy hats and matching capes.

“Because of COVID, it’s not worth trying to get inside,” Almodovar said.

John Hilliard can be reached at joh[email protected]


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