Local businesses and government respond to the coronavirus outbreak

By Staff | Mar 16, 2020

Belfast — As Mainers enter the first week of widespread school, business and event closures, Belfast is following suit and cautions residents to work from home and limit their exposure to public spaces to prevent spreading the coronavirus.

Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce has rearranged its office to accommodate recommended social distancing in public spaces and has employees working remotely, but will remain open as a resource to the local community and businesses, according to Director Steve Ryan.

Ryan said several local businesses reported a slight decrease in the number of customers. He said athenahealth and Bank of America have several employees working remotely and they are considering expanding on those numbers.

Carl Hare, manager at All About Games, said Mondays are generally slow and that business today was not that out of the ordinary. He plans on staying open as long as he can. “Hopefully employees won’t all be sick,” he said.

None of the three local businesses The Republican Journal spoke to on Monday have seen a surge of students at their establishments. Lindsay McGuire at Left Bank Books said she has not noticed a big influx coming into the store.

Arielle Greenberg, a mom who writes and teaches poetry, creative nonfiction, and literary criticism and theory said she was at Left Bank Books picking up books for her children.

“We’re keeping our kids in seclusion,” she said, and added she was not optimistic about the weeks off. As a teacher, she said, she is aware of the limitations of online learning and plans to supplement their day with blocks of time to spend outside, making art, writing creatively, playing Dungeons and Dragons and having dance parties.

She is taking this opportunity to introduce her kids to classic movies as well.

“It’s going to be crazy,” she said. “This is unprecedented.”

U.S. Small Business Administration announced it will provide small businesses and nonprofits in Maine affected by the coronavirus with Economic Industry Disaster Loans at a low interest rate. It can provide up to $2 million for economic support in the event of a temporary revenue loss.

SBA will work with state governors to provide the assistance. It is a government organization that provides aid, council, assistance and protection to small businesses. Applications can be accessed at SBA.gov/disaster.

Local officials respond

Waldo County Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton said his department is not implementing new policies, but is temporarily "changing the way we do business" in response to the virus. Deputies will be working more from their cruisers, he said, and are being encouraged, where possible, to summon offenders rather than arresting them. In the case of violent crimes, he said, there will be no change.

In addition, there are limitations on visitation in the jail and at the Reentry Center, and residents of the Reentry Center, many of whom have jobs or volunteer in the community, are on restricted activity for now, he said.

Maine Pre-Trial Services, which has an office at the Reentry Center, will be doing more check-ins via email or video, rather than having in-person meetings with offenders, Trafton said. As well, the department is cleaning its facilities more frequently.

Waldo County officials have limited staffing at government service offices to essential responders only.

City officials in Belfast released a statement March 13 saying the city has been in contact with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control about safety information for city employees and the public.

The city will update the public on its response at the March 17 City Council meeting with the Public Health Nurse and Emergency Management Director. Information on the virus will be aired on the city’s TV channel BEL TV.

Economic Director Thomas Kittredge and City Manager Erin Herbig were not immediately available for comment.

For more information on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus visit cdc.gov/coronavirus. Hospitals are asking people who are symptomatic to call the emergency room before coming in so they can make extra accommodations.


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