March 2020 (2) Newsletter (COVID-19)

Bristol Notes - March 2020 (2)

For the Bristol Selectmen:

Chris Hall, Town Administrator


How widespread is Covid-19 in Bristol?

We don’t know, because symptoms can take up to two weeks to develop after a person catches the virus. There are 5 confirmed cases in Lincoln County, as of Wednesday March 25th. None of these cases have been admitted to hospital – they are quarantined at home with mild symptoms. 87 of Maine’s 142 confirmed cases as of today (61%) are in Cumberland County. These numbers are certain to grow.

Am I safer in Bristol than elsewhere?

Many part-year residents are asking themselves this, and many people have been opening their cottages early and coming back to Bristol to work remotely - or just to have more space and fresh air than elsewhere. We welcome you home to Bristol, but we cannot say you are safer – that will depend on your own behavior as well as your neighbors’. It is still the case that 90% of people tested in Maine do not have the Covid-19 virus (there are plenty of colds and flu cases around). But in a rapidly-developing pandemic, each of us may only be as safe as the least-insured, least cared-for person in the community. Nowhere is ‘safe.’

If you are considering whether to come back to Bristol at this time, please consider the following. Most of Maine is not yet under a strict stay-at-home order (Portland is), but we may be soon as the numbers grow. Restaurants, theaters, ‘inessential’ shops are closed. Our local Miles Hospital in Damariscotta, the only hospital in Lincoln County is licensed for just 25 beds (four in the I.C.U.) for a county of 35,000 people. They are scrambling valiantly to set up additional capacity, but our health care system is not as robust as those in urban areas.

Bristol is not one of the Maine communities that have been pleading with summer residents not to come back. We welcome home all of our residents, part-time and full-time. But we appeal to people returning to respect the fears of some in our community, and especially to continue to observe self-quarantine if you are coming from an area with ‘shelter-in-place’ rules, or if you have been in contact with anyone with symptoms. Oh, and bring some toilet paper with you if you come! J

Right now, many Bristol families are facing severe hardship, especially those dependent on fishing which itself depends on restaurants that have closed around the world. The lobster dock price is under $3 (this time last year it was $11), which does not pay for fuel, let alone a stern man. Two lobster co-ops have stopped buying. Clam diggers have seen the local buyer, Community Shellfish in Bremen, close its doors for the duration. So this would be a great time to hire local contractors to do those maintenance and construction jobs you have been putting off, and get some money circulating in the community.

Bristol has shown a great deal of community spirit already. Although grocery sales have been high from people stocking up, Bristol has not seen the kind of shortages of basics seen elsewhere in the country – even in Damariscotta. Service organizations like the Lions and the Masons have joined with the churches, the First Responders and the Town Office to make sure there is communication and coordination among the volunteer efforts to look after housebound and self-isolating people. Far more people are volunteering to help, than have requested help – so far.

How can I help in this emergency?

I’ve been asked this question enough times in the last week that I’ve decided to put some thoughts into this special edition of the Bristol Notes newsletter. The suggestions below cover both people who are here now – whether year-round or part-year residents – and also our much valued summer community, who love this peninsula as much as the people who were born and raised here.

If you are here now:

  • The common-sense advice you’re heard over and over again still applies. Keep your distance; don’t gather in large groups; wash your hands often and thoroughly; don’t ride in a vehicle with non-family members; keep your distance in the supermarket checkout line.
  • If you are over 70 (alright, so 70 is the new 50, but if you are ‘getting on in years’) or suffer from chronic illness, stay in your home! Call the Town Office (563-5270) if you need help and do not have family or friends you can turn to.
  • Look out for neighbors who may be housebound. We have a large percentage of people who are in the categories advised to ‘self-isolate,’ including people over 70 and those with compromised immune systems. Check in on them by phone if possible, and keep the six-foot ‘social distancing’ rule – but do make sure they are safe, and offer to deliver groceries, get the mail and take trash to the transfer station.
  • If a neighbor is ill or uses a wheelchair or walker, and cannot (for example) carry their own grocery or take out their own trash, do not compromise their health by getting close. If you do not have Personal Protective Equipment (mask and gloves), call for help from a First Responder who does (via Chief Paul Leeman, 592-5321).
  • Help the staff at the Transfer Station by pre-sorting your recyclables (mixed paper, cardboard, and taking them straight to the large green recycling containers (on the right as you approach the transfer building). Staff are no longer sorting and handling our recyclables. It’s imperative that we keep these unsung ‘essential service’ heroes healthy.

Wherever you are now:

  • Donate to the food pantries. There are two: the New Harbor Food Pantry in the basement of the Methodist Church, and the Caring For Kids free food cupboard located between the Bristol Mills Fire Station and the Masonic Hall. Their services are in great demand. Many residents are ‘food-insecure’; half of all Bristol school students qualify for free school meals. Money contributions are preferred to in-kind donations at this time, to ensure a regular supply of staples. Donations can be sent to the New Harbor Food Pantry at PO Box 100, New Harbor ME 04554; or Caring For Kids, PO Box 412, New Harbor ME 04554. Physical donations of non-perishable items can be made at the New Harbor church on Saturday morning, 9 am to 10 am, or in drop boxes at the Round Pond and New Harbor Fire Stations for Bristol Mills.
  • Give to the Town’s General Assistance fund. Bristol has a ‘Worthy Poor Fund’ (you can tell from its name that it was founded in the nineteenth century!) which the Selectmen administer to supplement the small General Assistance fund voted at each Town Meeting. Donations can be made to the Town of Bristol (marked ‘Worthy Poor Fund’), PO Box 339, Bristol ME 04539. This is the most flexible resource we have for fast help to people with real problems, and the Board of Selectmen are pretty good at detecting who is and is not ‘worthy’!
  • Support the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP, Inc.). CHIP is our local resource for helping families in need to stay safe, warm and dry with urgent home repairs. Its volunteers work on 10 to 20 Bristol homes a year. CHIP also helps with emergency heating fuel. P.O. Box 6, Newcastle, ME 04553.
  • Follow updates on the local situation through Lincoln County TV (lctv.org), especially their daily updates from Miles Hospital; and the Lincoln County News (lcnme.com).
  • Eat more lobster, clams and oysters!

 

Summer has not been cancelled!

Experience in China and Korea suggests that if we behave wisely and with self-discipline, we have perhaps three months of this to endure before we can relax. We hope the Round Pond July 4th Parade will go ahead as usual in a little more than 3 months’ time. By then, people will be eager to celebrate and it should be a memorable parade!

Plan to come to Olde Bristol Days, August 15 and 16, or to one of the many Maine Bicentennial events scheduled for this summer by the Old Bristol Historical Society. Fireworks and music at the Beach Park on the evening of Saturday, August 15th.

[Note: the burying of the Maine Bicentennial time capsule has been postponed to the Fall, when school is open – we want the Bristol School kids to lead this project.]

A message from the Fire Chief, Paul Leeman Jr.

If there’s one thing that keeps me awake at night it’s the thought that if one or more our First Responders and volunteer Firemen catch the virus, many or all of us would have to self-quarantine and not be able to respond to emergency calls. Accidental exposure to someone who may have no symptoms but is carrying the virus could have disastrous effects, not just from the virus but from inability to respond to other emergencies. We have cancelled all meetings, trainings, and gatherings in order to remain healthy to respond to emergencies.

Please, make sure the young people in your family take this seriously!

Bristol Parks and Recreation

Bristol’s parks do not officially open until June. The rest of the year they are open informally – without staff or services – and we do not try to fence off the beach, for example, or the lighthouse. We are not following the example of York, Maine, for example, which has closed its beaches and is fining people for using them.

Especially when many people are either working from home or not working, the parks fulfill a real need for fresh air and exercise, with many more people in the parks than is usual for this time of year. Please, when using the parks, KEEP YOUR DISTANCE from others, and pick up after your dogs! Leashed dogs are welcome at the Beach Park until May 1st only, then not allowed until October.

The new Pemaquid Beach Pavilion is rapidly approaching completion, but please stay away from the construction site until it is finished. It is one more thing to look forward to this summer.

For more information on any of the matters touched on in this report, please email Chris Hall at [email protected]. Thank you for reading!