The Strand Theatre in downtown Rockland on March 18 after it closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic (Photos by Ethan Andrews)
The Strand Theatre in downtown Rockland on March 18 after it closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic (Photos by Ethan Andrews)
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Last week, working for the first time from my apartment in Belfast, I talked with fellow midcoast residents about what’s happening in their lives in this strange moment, and what’s changed since the coronavirus came to Maine. Interviews were conducted from March 19 to 23.

Alan Lowberg, Hope, 64, builder of solar outhouses

I try to stay home as much as possible. Yesterday I went out to get eggs and I’m not going to tell you where I ended up getting them, because I don’t want a rush of people going to this person. I was not able to get them in a grocery store, but I was able to get two flats of eggs. So I’m good on eggs. Yesterday I watched a movie, “Ben Hur,” the original. Today I’ll probably watch another movie, and I’ve got plenty of work to do at home. I’ve got plenty of material. I just don’t like working out in the damp, cold weather, so I’ll probably wait until the sun comes out.

I’ve put up a Purell hand sanitizer dispenser on a post right at my front door. Well, because I make outhouses, so I had those. Other people might not be able to do that because you can’t get Purell. It’s gone. But I have bags of it and I had extra dispensers, so I just put one on a post so anybody who comes to my house can see it and sanitize their hands and be ready to go.

I feel optimistic that things are gonna turn around and we’re gonna be okay. I think the president’s response has been exceptional, and I think our governor’s response has been exceptional. Just very poised, I guess that’s the right word, controlled, thoughtful. Nonpartisan. I haven’t heard anything partisan. I got a couple of notices from Congresswoman Pingree giving some updates. There was no negativity towards anybody not in her party. I appreciate that. I think our government’s response, Democrat and Republican, has been very good. So I’m optimistic that we’re going to be fine.

Judi Erickson, Belfast, 66, per diem registrar at Waldo County General Hospital, musical theater director, associate producer and lyricist. She and her husband live on a 35-foot sailboat docked at Front Street Shipyard

I will be working a double 12-hour shift this coming weekend inside the Emergency Room. Now, it has been a week since I last worked there, but things change rapidly and often. You have to be ready to “change it up” and continue serving the public.

The work world is not mine to pick and choose, so I just follow all the precautions — wash hands, hand sanitizer, wear gloves if necessary, wear masks at all times when in contact with patients.

It wasn’t always that way, and we would be advised, either by the docs or by an icon on our electronic system, if a patient was considered to be a “droplet” or “respiratory” patient, and we would mask to see them — even just to ask questions and get signatures.

If you want to write anything about WCGH, please let people know that they are working hard and keeping up with health care within all the CDC norms. We’re small, but we get the job done. And we have so many elderly patients. We have to be super careful.

Erik Klausmeyer, Belfast, 35, operations manager for a health care billing company, working primarily with co-workers in India

I was just on a call with them. They are in full business-continuity-planning mode. They’re sending their people to work from home, which is, you know, culturally pretty different for them. There are very few cases there so far, but I think it’s similar to the U.S. where the testing is also very low, so they really don’t have any idea.

I work in oncology, and a lot of the treatments that our patients get require things like preauthorizations and precertification. So you have to call the insurance company ahead of time and get approval. It’s becoming very hard to do that right now.

A lot of call centers for banking, for insurance companies, for you name it, have call centers in other countries. Manila (Philippines) is under lockdown. So if you had a call center in Manila for Bank of America or UnitedHealthcare, now you can’t take those calls and respond to your customers. So everybody’s facing the same problem.

[Through my work, I’m] recognizing, every day, every minute, how interconnected the world has become and what this kind of a scenario does to that interconnectedness. And I do worry that, before this happened, we had a real move all over the world to become sort of nationalist and isolationist and push back on that globalism and this actually is going to end up giving fuel to that fire.

Hunter Grindle, Rockland, 24, owner of Hybrid Fitness, a personal training gym in Thomaston

Today we did a live-stream workout instead of our normal in-group sessions. So, you know, we hooked up our camera and we had 17 of our members online, which is cool.

We use this software called Zoom, and what’s really great is we can actually see everybody on their webcam. While I’m coaching, I can see all 17 people. I can see their form, and I can actually, you know, be like, “Hey, drive your knees out; keep your back straight. Nice job.” So although it’s over the TV, it’s still very personal, and I can still give them a high level of coaching.

The live piece is new. Previously, it would be, you know, we write them an individual workout that they can take to a Planet Fitness or another gym. We have some members in their 70s, and they’re not super tech savvy, as you can imagine. So I basically just shot a bunch of videos: Here’s how to download the Zoom app; here’s what you want to do when you have the Zoom app; if you want to put the live workout on your TV, here’s the HDMI cable you need; you can get this at Walmart, and like, here’s where you plug it in. Just step-by-step stuff, you know.

[I’m mostly] at home or at the gym. I might stop at my dad’s tomorrow night. We’re having a little family dinner with my sister and nieces. We’re gonna all get together and that’ll be good. But I don’t know, last night, I got home and did some work. I watched some “Star Wars.”

I think if you’re on Facebook all day, you think the world is ending. But when you actually go and talk to people and see people still, people are, yeah, maybe a little annoyed, but overall optimistic and positive.

Molly Mulhern, Camden, 60, retired from International Marine, a nautical book publisher; and now a full-time volunteer at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland

We made the decision that we really couldn’t [have classes] because of the proximity in terms of instruction. If we’re trying to flatten the curve, we couldn’t condone having people still be together. We’ve just been doing phone calls about the shop. I’ve been doing some other sort of writing that I do. And, you know, connecting as best as I can online with other people in my life.

I’ve been a runner all my life and I’ve seen more people out when I’ve been running, families and so on and so forth, which I think is great. I hope people keep doing that comforting thing.

I am retired, but I’m in that position where, you know, [my retirement savings is vulnerable] because we are led to believe that [investments are] the place you put all of your retirement money, in stocks and bonds. And that’s a really interesting ride to watch the financial collapse. There was a while at the beginning where I thought I could control it, and I’ve just given up. Well, nobody knows where it’s going.

I had invested in a way that I thought was gonna last me for 30 more years because I’m young, retired young, and I have absolutely no idea whether that’s the case anymore. But, you know, that’s a privileged thing to be able to say. There are people who are worried about paying their rent next week. So I realize that, but I don’t think there’s one person in the world who’s not affected on some level, financially, by this whole thing.

Susan Reitman, Rockland, 78, registered nurse no longer working

This morning I went to Shaw’s at 7 a.m. because it was for senior citizen shopping until 9 a.m. I will not leave my home the rest of the day, COVID-19!

I had a doctor’s appointment in Portland on March 17, and the doctor canceled it because of COVID-19. At that time I started to realize the gravity of the situation our country is in.

Our church has canceled prayer meetings, Sunday school and church services until further notice, which is the prudent thing to do, but it was shocking when that happened. The Heavenly Father is in charge, and I have faith in Him and the plans he has for all of us.

I am disappointed that some people are hoarding products and not thinking about others in the community that need things, and the store shelves are empty.

Just how many rolls of toilet paper does one person or family need? Stores should start limiting the amount of any one thing a person can purchase so there will be enough to go around. People of my generation learned how to improvise; you run out of toilet paper, you use a washcloth with soap and water, you wash the soiled washcloths in soap and bleach, then you dry them outside in the sun. If you are lucky enough to have a washing machine and dryer it is easier. The majority of people today are SPOILED.

Chris Gates, Camden, 62, consultant

Before all this, I traveled a lot to D.C. and New York on a regular basis. A lot of it is, you know, going to conferences and speaking at conferences. I teach at Georgetown and they’re totally shut down. Everybody’s canceled all their meetings; everybody’s canceled all their conferences; everybody is working from home, and so any face-to-face work is on hold for the foreseeable future.

Today I’m working from home, which, you know, I do on a regular basis, and so that’s not a big change for me. I actually had a catch-up coffee with a friend. We were both going a little stir crazy. I’ve got a big porch, and so he came over, and we sat 15 feet apart and had coffee and caught up.

It’s a very close-knit neighborhood. And we all know each other. We barbecue together in the summer and all that kind of stuff. I work in the democracy field, and I’ve worked a lot with Bob Putnam at Harvard, and it’s the whole notion of social capital, right? That it’s the networks and relationships that you have in your life that reflect both trust and reciprocity. And we’re a group of folks that all have keys to each other’s houses and look out for each other. But I don’t think we’re remarkable. I think that that’s life in a small Maine community.

April Turner, Freedom, 41, clinical social worker, conditional

I’m getting ready to move things all around so I can have a home office. Today I got approval, all of us did, to work from home, for providing teletherapy, rather than in-person therapy.

[At the house] it’s me, my husband and my son. We do have older children that come and go as they might need to. And then my granddaughter who’s 3.

A huge weight got lifted off my shoulders when we got the go-ahead that we could use teletherapy, because I could be home. I could still support my clients, but I could be home. I could be doing the social-distancing. I could be making sure my son’s okay and my other kids are okay if they needed a place to go.

I hope that it lasts after all this. Because I had clients that I spoke to today that I haven’t been able to see for a couple of months. They haven’t been able to come into the office either because they were sick or whatever else was going on in their life. And I was able to see six out of seven clients today. That’s a pretty awesome thing, when Friday I think I saw two clients out of six or seven that I had scheduled. And I thought that maybe because we don’t really talk on the phone very much anymore that people would have a hard time connecting and talking about what was going on for them, but everybody was talkative and was able to share what was going on and how it was affecting them.

Seth Whited, Searsport, 47, owner of Neighborhood restaurant in Belfast

We did take-out for the last two days, but we made the decision to close after that. I’m at home right now. We spent the early part of the day dealing with all of the perishables at the restaurant. We had just gotten two big cases of citrus — lemons and limes, fresh, nice-looking fruit — which we had to juice all of and borrow some freezer space from a friend. We’ll go through the juice later, but the lemons, they’d spoil now. So we gave away as much as we could to our staff, stuff that was already prepared, kept some for ourselves. Long term, everything else will be good. So yeah, just trying to mitigate any sort of food waste.

You know, two weeks ago, had I just had to suddenly shut the restaurant down from completely normal business, out of the blue, I think it would have rocked my world in a way that this isn’t. This is still upsetting the applecart, don’t take me wrong, but it feels more numb, if that makes any sense.

I had one moment when I made a post on social media that said, okay, we’re gonna close down. That was an emotional moment for me. Because we’ve been open for three years, and this is the largest undertaking that either myself or my wife have ever made. So, to see it struggle this way is difficult. And that was an emotional moment for me. But beyond that feels all sort of matter of fact.

It’s just a roll of the dice, really, from a nature standpoint. And it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that the next one that comes along could turn your eyes to jelly in five minutes. You know what I mean? Like, we have no idea. Hopefully, we learn something from this. My faith in that aspect of humanity is not super strong. I’m really looking forward to November when hopefully we might have somebody with a notion of common sense at the head of the government.