Marta Bent and Vicki Webster, keeping their distance during their cocktail hour at OceanView at Falmouth. Bent said that self-quarantining “is a big change for us. … Normally we’re in and out of our apartments all day.”  Photo by Loli Hammond

Marta Bent is used to being busy.

At nearly 87, she typically spends her days at OceanView at Falmouth attending lectures and movies, exercising and socializing with other residents of the private retirement community.

But after five residents tested positive for coronavirus infection, those living there have been asked to self-quarantine or shelter in place for 14 days and monitor themselves for symptoms.

“It’s a big change for us,” Bent said Thursday in a telephone interview from her apartment in Blueberry Commons at OceanView. “We do miss the concerts and the lectures and the exercise and the birthday parties. Normally we’re in and out of our apartments all day.”

OceanView has 350 residents in independent living, 47 in assisted care, 24 in memory care and 180 employees.

But staying home is the new normal at OceanView – and across Maine – as the number of cases of the coronavirus in Maine rises.

Coronavirus infections have now been found in seven of Maine’s 16 counties, with 35 of the 56 cases being reported in Cumberland County. It is unclear whether the fifth case at OceanView, reported by the retirement community Friday evening, is a new case or one of the 56 reported by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

The five cases at OceanView appear to make up the only cluster of cases in Maine so far, and the situation is being watched closely by the state and others because of outbreaks at long-term care facilities in other parts of the country.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said two of the cases at OceanView were household contacts. Two patients are hospitalized at Maine Medical Center in Portland, and the other three are recuperating in isolation at home, OceanView said in its statement.

Two residents of the OceanView at Falmouth retirement community are hospitalized at Maine Medical Center and three others are recuperating in isolation at home, OceanView said Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The Maine CDC and OceanView officials say they cannot release any other information about the patients – including in which part of OceanView they live, their names or conditions – to protect patient privacy.

Three nurses who work at OceanView are in self-quarantine because of exposure but are not showing symptoms and have been making daily calls to check on residents. The facility does not have a staff shortage, said Linda Varrell, spokesperson for OceanView.

Despite being the focus of attention and the site of five cases, some residents said they feel well-protected, safe and are finding ways to cope with the isolation by staying in touch with family and friends by phone and internet.

OceanView at Falmouth has several types of living arrangements within its sprawling 80-acre campus on Blueberry Lane, including cottages, apartments, assisted living and memory care. The facility offers a range of social events for residents, including fitness programs, dances, cocktail hours and group outings.

All of those activities have been canceled. Meals are being delivered to residents’ rooms. Staff are delivering groceries and prescriptions to residents.

Some residents who have been exposed but are not showing symptoms have been asked to self-quarantine. Others have been asked to shelter in place by staying home to avoid community spread of the coronavirus, Varrell said. OceanView did not say Friday how many residents fall into each category.

The facility is also conducting daily checks with people who have been exposed, including twice daily temperature checks for 14 days, and has prohibited nonessential visitors on campus. The center is testing anyone who shows symptoms and is working closely with an epidemiologist from the Maine CDC, according to Varrell.

“They are continuing to implement the public health measures the CDC has recommended,” Shah said Friday. “We commend them for their work on this.”

OceanView currently has enough protective equipment and supplies, but has placed an order for additional equipment with the CDC “to ensure sustained preparedness,” Varrell said.

Bent, who has lived at OceanView for more than five years, said the facility is keeping residents updated with daily memos about the coronavirus situation, but residents are not provided with any additional details about who has become sick.

“It would be nice to have more news about who is ill, but I know they can’t do that,” she said. “We do all wonder who is ill.”

Bent doesn’t mind that a police car is stationed at the corner of Blueberry Lane and Falmouth Road to keep visitors away.

“I’m glad I’m here, because I feel very safe and protected. I know they’re looking out for us,” she said. “I know they’re doing their very best, but this is a very difficult thing to cope with.”

Beverly Wakely, a 90-year-old retired teacher who lives in a different apartment building at OceanView, said the staff has done “a terrific job” keeping residents updated on the situation and keeping them connected and busy while they’re self-isolating. Along with the daily memo, staff give them new word games and puzzles every day and make sure they have the supplies they need.

“They’ve been very thoughtful,” she said.

Wakely is especially impressed with the people who run the exercise classes she normally goes to in the morning. Because they can’t meet in person, they posted videos online for residents to use at home.

“I have my cellphone propped against my coffee cup so I can do my exercises,” she said. “All of the good things they’re doing are keeping us occupied.”

Both Bent and Wakely are trying to stay connected to their friends in unique ways.

Wakely and two of her friends have been taking harmonica lessons. At 3 p.m. Thursday, each stood in their open doorway to play “Twinkle, Twinkle” together as part of Jimmy Fallon’s Cowbell Challenge. The “Tonight Show” host, inspired by quarantined people in Italy singing from their balconies, asked people to make noise out an open door or window and “tell this virus to get away from us.”

“It opens up our doors. At least we can see them,” Wakely said of the harmonica concert.

Bent and her three immediate neighbors have started a different type of social distancing tradition. Each day at 5 p.m., they’ve been putting a chair in their doorway and chatting over a glass of wine or beer. It’s a pleasant way to spend part of the day, which is now otherwise occupied by reading, texting and emailing.

“Friends and neighbors seem to be keeping busy and being resourceful. But I know there are probably people here who are unhappy about not being able to get out,” Bent said. “I don’t how long we’ll be happy if we’re here at home for a couple months. Nobody knows how long this is going to continue.”

Staff Writer Randy Billings contributed to this story.

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