Journal of the Plague Year: Maine finally welcomes coronavirus

Posted Thursday, March 12, 2020 in News

Journal of the Plague Year: Maine finally welcomes coronavirus

by Gina Hamilton

March 12, 2020

Welcome to Maine. Now go home.

Maine has had its first positive presumptive coronavirus test, a person somewhere in Androscoggin County, who has not been hospitalized. The public health people are doing all the public health things, including contact tracing, but Maine had been actively planning for this eventuality for a couple of weeks, and in the last few days, had gone forward with some otherwise fairly draconian steps, including closing the public university system and Brunswick's Bowdoin College, canceling sporting events and the St. Patrick's Day parade in Portland, and closing public meetings in some localities.

No one seems to be worried about any of these things, and that's probably because unlike in poor Daniel Defoe's day, or even in 1918, it is possible for many of us to stay home and do what we do, as long as we have the internet and power.

Coronavirus can infect anyone, but at least right now, it seems to be most virulent with older people.  So in addition to the usual instructions about hand-washing and disinfecting and so on, there are other things that people need to do, some of which will be difficult and sad to put into place.

We must stop visiting loved ones in nursing homes, senior housing, or assisted living; the angel of death might very well be riding on our shoulders. We should stay in touch to the extent possible by Skyping, Facetiming, or using one of the new social media portals.

We must put into place, now, a system for a clean election in November. There is no guarantee that coronavirus will fade by then or that it won't return. Given the time constraints, a simple ballot by mail system seems reasonable.

We must create a network group with our local neighbors so that if anyone needs help -- say, an older neighbor who doesn't feel he or she should go shopping or walk the dog -- one of the rest of us can step up and help out.

We must certain that we have contingency plans in place if schools are closed down and children are suddenly at home. While they don't seem to be the targets of this particular virus, and thank the stars for that, enforced idleness is always a problem. Make sure they are included in as many daily, age appropriate tasks as possible. We must be certain we have a dedicated computer for them so they can complete schoolwork and enough bandwidth to allow them to do so. Run now -- do not walk -- to the library (before they close down, too) and get as many new books as possible for them and for ourselves.

Remember to lay in supplies for pets and livestock. Consider that feed stores and large box stores may run out of animal supplies and food as more people become ill and transportation networks fail.

We're certain that this is just the tip of what appears to be a rather large iceberg.

Stay home if you can, be well, and light a candle for a speedy end to the crisis.

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