Originally published in Castine Patriot, March 19, 2020 and Island Ad-Vantages, March 19, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, March 19, 2020
Facilities, restaurants close to curb virus spread
Governor limits gatherings
Hand sanitizer has become the most coveted item in grocery stores today—after toilet paper, of course.
by Eli Forman and Leslie Landrigan
As town halls, libraries and the courts close, the Island Nursing Home enters lockdown, and area businesses take steps to keep their employees and customers as far apart from each other as possible, life settles into a new normal across the Peninsula and the Island.
This comes on the heels of an executive order by Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday, March 18, banning dine-in service at restaurants and bars for 14 days, and limiting gatherings of more than 10 people indefinitely. Mills has the authority to enact these restrictions under the civil state emergency declaration on March 15.
Although no cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Hancock County as of Wednesday, March 18, area towns have begun to enact preventive measures in hopes of curbing the spread of the virus if it reaches the region.
Town offices in Castine, Blue Hill, Stonington, Surry, Sedgwick and Deer Isle are closed to the public and will conduct all business online or by phone, while Penobscot, Brooksville and Brooklin are discouraging the public from entering town offices unless absolutely necessary.
Following federal and state directives to limit large gatherings, Surry and Blue Hill have taken the extra precaution of postponing their upcoming Town Meetings.
Emergency legislation from the state has been enacted to allow municipal meetings such as boards of selectmen to occur via telephone or video, providing that the meetings are posted in advance with a description of their means of communication and provide a way for members of the public to listen and respond. “It’s all patchwork until we find an efficient method for operation,” said Deer Isle Town Manager Jim Fisher, referring to Deer Isle’s developing plan to conduct town business remotely, which currently includes installing a drop-box and making some transactions in the parking lot of the town office.
At the Stonington election on Friday March 14, extraordinary measures were taken to keep people healthy, including ballot clerks sterilizing pencils after each use and removing ballot box curtains due to a lack of a proper method of sanitizing them.
In addition, community spaces across the peninsula have closed, including the Blue Hill Public Library, Witherle Memorial Library in Castine, the Stonington Public Library and the Chase Emerson Memorial Library in Deer Isle. The Blue Hill and Castine libraries will continue to offer drop off services and remain available by phone and online.
As communities begin to practice social distancing and self-quarantine, organizations such as Healthy Peninsula and Healthy Island Project are ramping up efforts to address the needs of house-bound seniors and those unable to travel. Healthy Peninsula plans to begin delivering essentials and providing volunteer check-ins, while Healthy Island Project will now deliver lunches to seniors on Mondays and Thursdays.
The Healthy Island Project flier for their lunch delivery program reads: “Twice a week you will receive a friendly call from a volunteer who will do a quick wellness check and will let you know when to expect your HIP Lunch Box delivery. Feel free to open your door, the volunteer will not enter; if you’re feeling unwell, the volunteer will knock and leave your lunch outside your door.”
Those wishing to volunteer their time with Healthy Peninsula, or who know someone in need, are encouraged to contact Anne Schroth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local businesses are also responding to the potential spread of the coronavirus by attempting to minimize public exposure while still providing services to the community.
A sign on the door of the Maine Coast Veterinary Hospital reads: “We are happy to come out to your car to collect your pet and bring them inside,” stating also: “It is preferred you pay by card because cash can’t be sanitized easily.”
Additionally, Camden National Bank said in a press release it will offer only drive-up service at most of its branches, with in-person visits by appointment only at those locations. For locations without a drive-up window, the bank will be limiting the number of customers inside at any given time.
Brooklin General Store has also stopped accepting cash transactions for sanitation reasons.
On the island, V&S Hardware in Stonington is selling products at curbside only, while at the Island Employee Cooperative, four of the 60 employees took leave because they lived with susceptible people who couldn’t risk coronavirus exposure, said Les Weed, CFO, in an interview on March 17.
Back in Blue Hill, TradeWinds Market Place has reserved the hour from 6 to 7 a.m. for customers who are 55 and older and will offer Purell wipes at the doors.
According to Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, efforts are under way by Nancy Wynne, a licensed seafood buyer, to work with area fishermen to allow them a source of income as scallop season comes to a close.
Wynne is planning on “coordinating and relaying orders placed locally,” said a statement from MCCF’s Facebook page.
The statement further added that “one hundred percent of the purchase price goes to the fishermen,” and directed those wishing to place an order to contact Nancy at email@example.com.
In addition, the Blue Hill Winter Market, where vendors sell local produce, crafts and other foods every Saturday, has closed indefinitely, with some longstanding vendors such as Four Season Farm in Brooksville continuing to deliver produce to the Blue Hill Co-op.
The Blue Hill Co-op has reduced its hours, opening Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will provide gloves at the entrance for those who want them.
As businesses brace for what may be a long-term change in customer habits, some are developing new methods of reaching patrons.
Strong Brewing in Sedgwick is planning to offer free deliveries within 20 miles of the brewery to those wishing to stay at home, with a minimum order of two four-packs.
In Penobscot, Jamie MacNair, owner of Northern Bay Market, remains optimistic as well. “We’re down, but we’re not down and out,” she said. The market is offering a curbside pick-up program where customers can call ahead for groceries and make their transactions in the parking lot rather then entering the store.
Blue Hill Chamber of Commerce President and Blue Hill Heritage Trust Development Director Chrissy Allen emphasized that the chamber of commerce is seeking ways to “support the membership in this vast, unknown time,” adding, “everybody is really concerned about the impact on tourism to the area this summer.”
She noted that the chamber of commerce is keeping a close eye on developments in the state Legislature involving emergency funding for small businesses and employees. “We’re trying to share information about what resources will be available,” she said.
In the midst of these uncertain times, spring is still on the horizon, and Blue Hill Heritage Trust is planning initiatives to encourage people to “get outside and take care of themselves while practicing safe social distancing,” said Allen. “We live in a beautiful place,” she reiterated.
This will include a naturalist trail with information geared towards all ages, as well as curriculum ideas for kids who are home from school.
According to Allen, free trail guides will be available at drop-box locations at the Blue Hill office, and in Castine, Deer Isle and Stonington.
In these uncertain times, Allen stressed that “We [BHHT] are putting a lot of energy into trying to be a source of positive messaging—we’re here as a resource.”
List of closures by town as of 12 p.m., Wednesday, March 18
Penobscot Bay Press will continue to update this list at penobscotbaypress.com.
Blue Hill Institutions:
Bagaduce Music hall and library, closed indefinitely.
Blue Hill Heritage Trust offices, closed indefinitely.
Blue Hill Public Library, closed until April 1.
Blue Hill Town Office, closed indefinitely.
Blue Hill YMCA, closed until April 3.
Golden Sun Childcare, closed until March 30.
The Harbor House, closed indefinitely.
The Ark thrift shop, closed indefinitely.
Town Hall, closed indefinitely.
Bach’s birthday concert, March 21, canceled.
Cribbage with Odd Fellows, March 21, canceled.
Rolston string quartet concert, April 4, canceled.
The Gawler family band concert, March 13, rescheduled October 30.
All Barncastle concerts, canceled.
Island Community Center, closed indefinitely.
Queen’s Closet, closed indefinitely.
Stonington Public Library, closed until March 31.
Stonington United Methodist Church, closed until March 20.
Opera House Arts, closed indefinitely.
Town office, closed until April 1.
All Healthy Island Project events, canceled.
Deer Isle Institutions:
Chase Emerson Memorial Library, closed indefinitely.
St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, closed until March 22.
Haystack school office, closed indefinitely.
Town office, closed until April 1.
Moth Madness, every Tuesday, canceled.
Art Matters, Deer Island Arts Association, April 5 and May 3, canceled.
Bicentennial dinner, March 28, canceled.
Island Speaker Series, March 19, canceled.
Isle au Haut:
No midday (except Wednesday) or Sunday ferry.
Harlequin Duck Cruise, March 28, canceled.
Friend Memorial Library, closed indefinitely.
Free Public Library, closed indefinitely.
Drop in center at Brooksville United Methodist Church, closed indefinitely.
West Brooksville Congregational Church.
Brooksville Community Center breakfast, canceled.
Cribbage lessons, March 21, canceled.
Heart Work, Reversing Falls Sanctuary, March 22, canceled.
Witherle Memorial Library, closed indefinitely.
Town office, closed indefinitely.
Town office, closed indefinitely.
Penobscot Coming Events:
Music Buffet, March 20, canceled.
Surry Coming Events:
McFarland legacy fundraiser, March 21, canceled.