In a 5-0 vote, the Salem Board of Health voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of an indoor mask mandate for businesses set to begin on August 23 and end November 13.

The move comes as the state continues to grapple with the delta variant of the coronavirus and as a similar mandate has been announced for the city's public schools. It will mean anyone going to Salem for its busy Halloween season will have to mask up if they plan to go indoors.

Speaking at a public meeting, board chair Jeremy Schiller said masks could help prevent a COVID outbreak like the one that recently struck Provincetown.

"My views is that I don't think we have a real choice," he said. "I think it's a small ask and I think it can have a potentially big impact in the fact that we may never realize what happened in Provincetown in Salem."

Part of the hope for the mandate is that businesses will not have to go through the pain of long shutdowns like they faced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is not shutting down any businesses or limiting businesses," Schiller said. "In fact, this is his hopefully preventing any of that to occur by protecting all of us."

While discussion around the mandate never got aggressive at the public meeting, there was pushback to having to mask up again from several members of the community who attended the virtual meeting.

Salem resident Andrew Meegan alluded to a need for personal responsibility from those who have not yet been vaccinated.

"Anybody who has not been vaccinated — who has lived through the last 18 months, and the multi-billion dollar media campaign that's come along with telling us all what we need to do to get through the COVID-19 pandemic — who is not participating at this point in time understands their risk," he said.

Salem Health Agent David Greenbaum pointed out a mask mandate isn't just about protecting those who are choosing to not get vaccinated.

"This is also about those that can't," Greenbaum said. "We know we have a population of folks that are immunocompromised have been advised by their physicians not to get vaccinated, and we also know that there's a population of children under 12 who aren't eligible to be vaccinated."

Greenbaum said Salem is seeing a lot of people come in from areas of the country that don't have as high of a rate of vaccination as Massachusetts.

He said the best two defenses against COVID at this point are vaccines and masking.

"And wearing a mask, like has been said, is not something everybody wants to do or even likes to do," Greenbaum said. "I know I don't like to do it. But I do it for myself and my family and everybody else that I may come in contact with, because I don't want to infect somebody inadvertantly and potentially kill somebody inadvertantly."