Mayor urges visitors to avoid Salem this Halloween

SALEM, Mass. — Anyone planning a trip to Salem this month to celebrate Halloween needs to cancel their plans, the mayor of the Massachusetts city famous for its 1692 witch trials said Friday.

Even though the city has cancelled a monthlong series of publicly sponsored events held each October that typically draw tens of thousands of visitors, many people are still flooding the city streets, increasing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

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"If you’re not in Salem yet and are thinking about coming, my advice to you is skip it," Mayor Kim Driscoll said. "Skip it until after October."

Businesses and tourist attractions have been limiting capacity and people are gathering in the streets.

"We still can’t allow the sorts of crowds that are gathering here to continue," Driscoll said.

The city is putting several crowd control measures into place this weekend, including restricting access to a major pedestrian mall, and setting up additional barricades to limit entry lines.

Salem is currently considered in the moderate risk category for coronavirus spread, and Driscoll doesn't want to see the city move to the high risk category.

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UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS

The Massachusetts unemployment rate fell to 9.6% in September as the state continues to emerge from an economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Friday.

The September rate is down 1.8 percentage points from the revised August rate of 11.4%. It has fallen steadily from a highest-in-the-nation 17.7% in June.

The state unemployment rate remained higher than the national rate of 7.9%, as reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state added almost 37,000 jobs last month after adding more than 62,000 in August, according to revised figures.

Job gains came in the education and health services; leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; manufacturing; and construction; and financial activities sectors.

The government sector lost jobs.

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VIRUS ON THE RISE

Massachusetts health officials on Friday reported 702 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 30 additional deaths, as the seven-day weighted average of positive tests rose to 1.4%.

The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

The total number of confirmed cases is now more than 139,000 and the death toll is nearing 9,500.

The number of people in the state's hospitals was up by 10 to 513 as of Thursday, with 77 patients in intensive care, 15 fewer than the previous day.

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HOLIDAY POPS CANCELED

The Boston Symphony Orchestra on Friday extended its live performance hiatus and cancelled the popular Holiday Pops concerts and the remainder of its winter/spring season through April.

The decision was made due to continuing state COVID-19-related regulations and restrictions regarding performing arts organizations and the number of people who can gather in indoor spaces.

The BSO, with a smaller complement of musicians, will gather in person later this month to record new material that will be made available online starting Nov. 19 and running through April.

"Though this news likely doesn’t come as a surprise — since the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all our personal and professional lives — it is still a major loss for the organization and everyone who appreciates and cherishes the BSO and Boston Pops," the organization's leadership said in a statement.

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