In March and April, when the pandemic was young, I interviewed people in a variety of occupations and circumstances as a snapshot from a quickly changing time. With infection rates rising to new highs, I spoke to several of them again to find out what has changed. Two spoke on the condition that they not be identified.

Seth Whited, owner of Neighborhood restaurant, Belfast

When we spoke in March, he had just decided to close the restaurant.

We did [re]open for takeout-only for a number of weeks. And then obviously, first of June, I think, we opened up the dining room and then a couple weeks after that got our outside seating scenario together. And things went pretty well over the summer, considering. I think we were down somewhere in the 30 to 40% range from last year overall. With the added stress, anxiety and logistical issues, by the middle of October, we were just kind of done and really needed a break. We’d been talking about it for a while. So we decided we would close for two weeks, and then reopen the beginning of November. And just as we were closing, suddenly, there were all sorts of new outbreaks locally. The Brooks church, etc. So, that timing was pretty good. We didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of happened. And I’m not sure exactly what we were thinking. I guess we thought that after two weeks maybe things would settle out and we’d be able to just open back up. But obviously, things aren’t going that way right now. So after a few days of agonizing over it, we just made the decision today not to reopen the dining room.

I’m sure it’s gonna be an adjustment for some people. We definitely did have regulars that were still coming in on a pretty regular basis. You know, some people, of course, weren’t quite ready to sit inside. We did our best to follow all of the guidelines so that people would feel safe when they were in. But still some people weren’t comfortable, and I totally get that. I’ve been very deliberate and choosy with any places that I’ve gone into for a meal.

I really have to send out a heartfelt thank-you, huge gratitude, to all of our customers that have kept this going. It’s been really incredible, people continuing to leave gratuity on takeout to keep our staff making what they need to make. I love our community, and the outpouring of support has been, really, it’s been fantastic.

We’ve been really fortunate here in Maine in general and in Central Maine. And I’m thankful for that, too. Hopefully the next time you talk to me I won’t have a totally different story.

I just want to send one more shout-out to the Belfast business community, to our staff, my fabulous wife, Sarah, and all of our friends and family for keeping the hope alive. The adaptability and fortitude that everyone has shown makes me proud to be part of this area.

Commercial cleaning service worker, Wiscasset

At the beginning of April, she was sanitizing surfaces at a factory in Southern Maine. On October 30, she was doing similar work at a private boarding school in the midcoast.

We had three students here and two faculty members that had presumptive positives. But then they got the full test and they were negative. The entire school was on lockdown during that. The students had to stay in their rooms unless they needed to use the bathroom.

A couple kids after the scare did get very freaked out. They went home, and now they’re doing their classes online. But that was only maybe a handful of students; the rest wanted to stay.

It used to be a Monday to Friday position. But now due to COVID, we have people come in weekends to sanitize as well. So we are sanitizing every single day of the week. I go through the dormitories and do any touch surfaces, sanitizing bathrooms, common areas, spraying down remotes, door handles, light switches, washing machines.

We were using something called Virex. It’s a sanitizer, but it didn’t have the kill time like the new sanitizer does. It took about three minutes to kill anything. We used it for general cleaning. And now we’re using something called Oxivir, which can kill anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute. But it’s also very harsh on your lungs. It’s such a fine mist, if your mask isn’t like an N95, it’ll go through your fabric mask. We are using cloth masks.

(When we spoke in the spring, she had recently been sick with respiratory symptoms but had not been eligible for one of the limited number of tests available at the time. She has tested negative since then, but has not taken an antibody test, which would show if she’s had the disease already.)

Do you think you had it?

I do, personally, yes. You know, it’s hard to breathe since then. It’s not like, oh my goodness, I’m gasping for air all the time. But it seems like I get winded a lot easier than I used to, even though my activity level has gone way up, because we’re constantly running all over to all kinds of different buildings and campuses and all kinds of things. But I don’t know. It could just be me, it could be allergies, it could be a cold, who knows. But ever since then, it’s been easier to get winded.

I actually really liked the community here. And it’s also way closer to my home. My fiance and I — thanks to the pandemic it’s kind of become a seller’s market — we were able to buy our first home with an insanely low interest rate.

We’re just working with this the best way that we can, the best way we know how. Teamwork can solve this as long as we’re smart. And as long as people continue to kind of remain calm about it, it’s definitely in the back of everyone’s minds, but it’s not like before. Now I can actually go to the grocery store and get groceries.

Brad Chesnel, Maine State Prison, A-Pod

Chesnel is originally from Auburn; he has been incarcerated for 22 years. When we spoke in April, the coronavirus had not infiltrated the prison, but there was a sense among inmates that it could be catastrophic if it did. Around the third week of October, three people connected with Maine State Prison tested positive but the outbreak did not take hold as it did at Maine Correctional Center in Windham, which had 145 confirmed cases as of last week.

For four days we didn’t come out till they got all the testing done. After the first round of testing went through then they started letting us out for a 15-minute period to come out to get a shower, and then go back in every day, and then they moved up to a half an hour, where we could make the phone calls. And now we’re on this 2½ -hour thing. Surprisingly enough, they were really attentive to us. The only thing now is with food. It’s hard because they’re putting it in paper plates or whatever, not Styrofoam, these little paper cartons. So by the time it gets to us, of course it’s cold. But they’re doing their best, it seems like they’re working real hard. The ones that are diligently working the staff line, they’re really putting work in to make sure we get what we need. I don’t think they want it in here any more than we want it.

Do you have to stay in your cells for long periods of time for other reasons?

If there’s continuous fighting or something like that, and they can’t control the assaults then they’ll lock us down for a week or two to bring the temperature down in the facility, but that’s very rare. This facility does have a lot of assaults going on. Everybody’s programming and they want better for themselves, and it seems to be working. When they first arrested me, I was in a California facility, and they moved me to the fed system through the U.S. Marshals. So this is quite a difference compared to most prisons I’ve been in. [He’s interrupted by an announcement] I think we have to lock in. There’s a code to go in now. That’s interesting, we were just talking about it.

Two days later, via text message, Chesnel says it might have been a medical emergency in another pod.

Please allow others to know that we all still view ourselves as human as the next person. And we do watch in great concern over what is happening to the world we know and want to rejoin. We offer prayers for everyone out there in the land of the free. I can only hope and pray I can be returned to the world we all know as normal and help rebuild what we all know is life. Being held in a cell awaiting a silent killer is depressing and fearful. Not knowing if there is going to be anything left to the normalcy of life is also depressing and concerning to me and everyone behind the doors. Stay safe … have a great Thanksgiving.

Bookkeeper and Cashier, Shaw’s, Rockland

When we spoke in April, it was the time of empty supermarket shelves and tense shoppers. She described crowds gathering outside the doors of the supermarket, and on one occasion, someone prying open the sliding doors with their fingers to get inside.

Now Knox County is in yellow, which means our schools are changing. So I’m afraid that people are going to start going back into panic mode and doing the crazy shopping like they were doing back then.

[But] they understand things a lot more now. They understand why we’re still not able to get some stuff in. One major thing is soda. It was kind of crazy, our Coke vendor, we kept asking him, you know, why aren’t we getting our products, and he said, Well, there’s the can shortage, and I was like, whaat?? no way. Go figure. How could 2020 get any better?

Are shoppers wearing masks in the store?

We still have it posted that they have to wear a mask, but our big manager, our district manager, has said we’re not going to sit at the door and say, You can’t come in because you’re not wearing one. But for the most part, I would say, 95% of people that come in there have a mask on, or some kind of face covering.

For the most part, we don’t have customers coming up to us like, (gasp) There’s a gentleman in Aisle 6 that doesn’t have a mask on. They kind of keep to themselves, and we try to get them out of there as fast as possible so that we don’t make anybody else uncomfortable. For the most part it’s not people that are in there doing a lot of shopping that don’t have a mask on, it’s if they’re running in and grabbing one thing, like a pack of cigarettes or something. They usually just come over to the service desk and we check them out. And then they leave.

Do you know anyone who’s had COVID-19?

No, I don’t. Well I know at my college they randomly are selecting people who go there to be tested. You find out about it and then you set up an appointment and then you do this split test. I kind of like that idea actually, I think more businesses should do that. They sent mine in on a Thursday and I had my results on Saturday. It was really fast. Mine was negative. Woo-hoo!