Store owner Rick Gowell, center, and store manager Tom Couture, left, shuffle inventory at Gowell’s Shop’n Save in Greene on Monday. “It has been completely insane,” Couture said about how busy the supermarket has been since the coronavirus pandemic hit Maine. Gowell said he has hired friends that have been laid off from other jobs due to the coronavirus and has hired high school students who are back working after school was canceled due to the virus. “Everybody is working real hard,” Gowell said. “We can get through this together.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, both in Lewiston, are still seeing patients. Pharmacies are staying open. Auburn officials are doing everything they can to ensure water, and sewer, keep flowing.

Many Maine businesses and services remained open and adapting Monday as the state adjusts to life under the growing coronavirus pandemic, often taking extra precautions, trying to allay concerns and, in the rare instance, enjoying an unexpected boom.

“They’re buying water, canned foods, pretty much anything you can think of,” said Tom Couture, store manager at Gowell’s Shop’n Save in Greene, where sales have nearly doubled since Thursday. “No one’s ever seen anything like this. We’re just trying to calm them down, saying, ‘We’re not going to close. Grocery stores won’t close.'”

At the Lewiston Police Department, Lt. David St. Pierre said patrols will continue to be fully staffed, though nonemergency calls could become discretionary and handled by phone, if they can be, instead of in-person.

They’ve temporarily suspended fingerprinting the public, ride-along programs and processing concealed firearms permits since those involve fingerprinting, he said.

School resource officers have been temporarily assigned to patrols and all staff are being mindful of their health, cleaning and social distancing.


“Our new cadets that had been in training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy are working here at the police department assisting with a variety of in-house functions since the MCJA is temporarily closed,” St. Pierre said.

Sid Hazelton, superintendent at the Auburn Water and Sewerage Districts, said they’ve been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and following state advice “to assure the safety of our employees, as well as taking steps to assure the continuous operation of critical infrastructure.”

“We want to reassure the public that we are committed to providing clean potable water and sanitary sewer services 24-7,” he said.

Spokeswoman Kate Carlisle said emergency needs were still being seen at Central Maine Medical Center, though its Maine Urgent Care in Topsham would have shorter wait times for needs such as cuts and sprains.

The walk-in clinic and regular visits were going ahead at Central Maine Pediatrics in Lewiston, as were regularly scheduled appointments at Central Maine Healthcare’s other doctors’ offices.

At St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, Saint Mary’s Health System spokesman Jason Gould said the emergency department was open but he urged patients to only come in for “true emergencies.”


“Plans are in development to determine the proper rescheduling of routine visits and elective procedures,” he said. “Plans are in development to stand up an offsite, drive-through COVID-19 testing site, and we will communicate those plans as soon as details have been confirmed.”

The hospital planned to close all but two entrances on Tuesday and start COVID-19 screenings for main hospital visitors and employees on Wednesday.

Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, said pharmacies here “are definitely staying open and will work with customers to best meet their needs whether that’s drive-through pick up, deliver (or) phone consultations.”

“Walgreens and CVS are working with the federal government to be testing locations over the coming days and weeks,” he added.

When it comes to Maine retail in general, Picard said, “some will choose to close for now, some will work hard to stay open to make sure people get the food they need, the prescriptions they need, the pet food they need or other critical goods and services.”

Hannaford spokeswoman Ericka Dodge said the chain doesn’t anticipate changing its hours to handle restocking.


Some stores have instituted purchase limits on high-demand items such as toilet tissue and hand sanitizer.

“We are working as quickly as possible to replenish specific high-demand items when a low inventory occurs,” she said. “And, we are in close contact with our suppliers so that we can keep our shelves stocked and serve customers. It is important for all of us at this time to be mindful of other customers who also have needs. So to that end, we encourage customers to purchase what they need and leave some for others.”

Dodge said PIN pads, grocery conveyor belts and other high-touch points throughout the stores are being regularly sanitized and associates who don’t feel well are being asked to stay home.

In Greene, Couture said they also put purchase limits on cleaning supplies, water and toilet tissue. He received 200 cases of toilet tissue Friday that sold out by the end of that day.

He ordered 600 cases of toilet tissue for Monday hoping to restock and received just three.

“We pretty much have our whole staff here working, putting up groceries right now,” Couture said. “I think it’s going to keep up this way probably until the whole coronavirus has some kind of conclusion. I think right now everyone’s panicking.”


Maine Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Susan Faloon said people are being encouraged to plan for weeks, not months, when it comes to stocking up on groceries and household needs.

“We’re obviously seeing a lot of information out there and a lot of misinformation, and it’s obviously difficult to rein it in,” she said. “We understand that people are scared.”

Hoarding, though, at times like this can create “an incident within an incident,” she said.

Unlike during an ice storm where there’s no electricity or communication, people who do run out of supplies can reach out, Faloon said. There will be lots of people in the community willing to help.

“I have seen carts rounded up that you don’t typically see,” she said. “And then we have folks on both ends, the ones who say this is being blown out of proportion. . . . We’d like people to land somewhere in the middle and stay calm.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: