We’ve got news for anyone who thinks they can escape the COVID-19 pandemic by coming to Maine. Too late. It’s here, too.

Maine may not have the large number of cases seen in more populous states, but the number of confirmed cases is exploding, jumping from just one on March 12 to 275 on Monday. So far, the cases have been concentrated in the most densely populated parts of the state, but that doesn’t mean that COVID-19 isn’t being transmitted in the more rural corners as well. It just means that there has not been enough testing to identify exactly where the virus is spreading.

One piece of public health guidance has been constant – stay home. Social distancing is the best way to slow the spread of the virus and prevent catastrophic failures of the health care system caused by a sudden influx of very sick patients, as has been seen in Italy and other countries. Whether you live in Brooklyn, New York, or Brooklin, Maine, your best chance to avoid getting sick or spreading the disease is to stay where you are and minimize your contact with other people.

Unfortunately, not everyone is getting the message. Property management companies report that they are getting calls from summer residents, asking them to turn on their water and clean up their cottages months earlier than normal. Tensions are rising in places like the island community of Vinalhaven, where resident vigilantes reportedly felled a tree and dragged it across a driveway because they’d heard that out-of-state tenants of the rental property were not adequately quarantining themselves.

Then there was the Massachusetts man, identified only as “Jeff,” who told Boston sports radio WEEI last week that he had headed up to a vacation home in Skowhegan because he thought he would be safer.

It didn’t work, though. Jeff got sick and was treated at Redington-Fairview Hospital, where he tested positive for coronavirus.

Whether Jeff brought the virus with him from home or picked it up somewhere on his journey, his case shows why it’s a mistake to try to escape it by heading for the hills.

If you think you are getting out of an area where coronavirus is circulating, there is a good chance you will bring it to your refuge and infect people there. Even if you are not carrying the virus, you could still catch it out in the country unless you are following the exact same social distancing procedures that would have kept you safe back home.

And having fewer neighbors doesn’t mean you’ll be safer when illness strikes. Small towns and island communities don’t have robust health care infrastructure and are not equipped to handle a sudden influx of patients. It doesn’t take much to overwhelm volunteer ambulance services and rural hospitals. Just a few extra cases could mean there isn’t enough life-saving capacity to go around.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a rare domestic travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for the next 14 days, urging residents to refrain from any unnecessary travel.

That’s good advice for everyone, everywhere. We can’t outrun this virus – we can only try to limit its spread.

 

 

 

 


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