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'Put aside expectations of normalcy'

Select Board letter asks residents' help in preparing for crisis

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Mar 30, 2020
Source: Facebook

Islesboro — The Select Board sent a letter to island residents Friday asking for their help in preparing for and weathering the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The letter, signed by Select Board Chairman Arch Gillies on behalf of the board and Town Manager Janet Anderson, urged residents, "We all need to put aside any expectation that this spring and summer can be close to normal in terms of opening up homes, doing repairs, construction, gardening/landscaping and summer vacation activities."

It details a meeting between town officials and staff of the Islesboro Health Center in which the Health Center staff said that once the virus arrives, the three medical personnel and the town's small emergency medical service will turn to "a 100% focus on COVID-19 patients."

The letter goes on to say that treatment for day-to-day medical needs will not be available on the island, except for emergencies. "Going into an ER or hospital will involve weighing the real risk of COVID-19 exposure," the letter notes, adding that the Health Center is working hard to stock, staff and plan, "though preparations will not likely ever be at 100%."

Speaking by phone Monday, Gillies said the Select Board's Crisis Committee was working to plan and prepare additional spaces to receive coronavirus patients, including the school and community center. "We've been warned that the two big hospitals in the Midcoast region will be as full or fuller as our little hospital on the island," he said.

While the Select Board had planned to send a letter to residents Friday in any case, Gillies said it became more urgent after board members saw pictures of the line to board the ferry to the island from Lincolnville Thursday morning.

"They showed an overload line typical of mid-summer — full of contractors, cement trucks, building materials, and so on. Little or no social distancing. This level of traffic is a direct and immediate threat to our ferry crew, Health Center, islanders and our ability to preserve our lifelines," the letter says. Nonetheless, Gillies told The Journal, "I think people are responding and have responded," to a request from the board March 20 that island residents limit their trips to the mainland to only those that are essential.

"'Essential' is a relative thing for people," Gillies acknowledged. He said, while "everybody has a high level of anxiety," he had not heard islanders expressing panic, and in fact had been thanked for the March 27 letter by some residents.

"We're trying to get into people's heads about how they make moral judgments," he said. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Find a link to the full letter below.

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