Here we are headed into another New Year and in the past few weeks I’ve been slapped in the face by reality. We live an isolated insular existence up here in the county, so far from the rest of the state that some times I feel that Maine is a state suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (commonly called Multiple Personality Disorder), remember Sybil? There’s the Maine of Cabot Cove and the picturesque coast, the Maine of the cities (or Bangor south to us), and The County! The very fact that no matter where in the state you are that phrase means Aroostook to all Mainers says a lot. However, there is no truth to the story that when you drive north you have to stop at the county line to get your passport stamped and visa checked.
In truth, a lot of the problem lies with we, the residents of the county. I believe that when there is any sort of societal emergency or pandemic we think of it as a problem from away. When the COVID-19 Pandemic became public last March we knew that we didn’t have to worry about it up here. In fact, when friends in the United States (defined as everything south of the Aroostook County line), asked me if I was concerned (as a 73 year old type II diabetic I’m at risk) my reply was a flippant, “Naw. Nothing, not even a virus will come up here in the winter.” For most of the year that was true. However, 2020 was not to be outdone.
This past month, December to January, the virus found us. This past week three of the largest nursing and assisted living facilities in the county have been ravaged, as many as forty patients afflicted in one. Those of us who are not confined in these facilities or have no friends or relatives in one, find it easy to overlook the fact that the patients (or residents if you prefer) have had less freedom that a criminal in Warren. They have been completely isolated (the fancy word is quarantined) and kept in solitary confinement, not even allowed visits from family. What bothers me the most about this involuntary confinement is that staff was allowed to leave every day. It doesn’t take a genius to understand how the virus got in.
My partner, Jane, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur through out all of this. Her main vocation is putting up with me, however, her avocation is sewing. She has been kept busy sewing masks and selling them at the general store across the street from our home. She’s sold a lot and has even gotten orders from people in the United States (remember where that is?). A month ago, she ran into a friend at the store and sold her some masks. This woman’s husband and I have known each other since high school, over fifty years. Two weeks ago we learned that they had both come down with the virus (see picture above–it’s hard for me to accept that something that looks like a toy my Yorkies would love is so lethal). She survived but her husband was transported to Bangor where the virus won.
From March to November 2020, Aroostook County had a single Covid-19 related death, a woman drove to Bangor to pick-up her son (who had recently been released from an out-of-state prison) at the bus station–he wasn’t traveling alone. He passed on the virus to his mother and she succumbed to it. For most of 2020 Aroostook, Washington, and Piscataquis Counties were reporting Covid-19 case numbers in the single digits, there are now 696 total cases in Aroostook county, an increase of 79 cases in the past few days.
Until recently, many people have scoffed at social distancing and wearing masks, yours truly among them. Some of this can be attributed to our attitude that it was not a county problem (I also blame the conflicting information coming from our government’s so-called medical experts: one day masks help, the next day they say well maybe not so much, then on day three yet another double-blind message), well guess what. It is a county problem; it is a state problem; it is a national problem; and most of all it is a global problem.
I can’t help but notice that we have let a bunch of elected fools convince many of us that they can deal with this. They make a decree closing our economy, telling us to stay home and then they get caught having a family get together in a fancy restaurant or having a hair salon opened so they can get their hair done. They place themselves at the front of the line for vaccination using the excuse they are doing so to show the public that it is safe. Really? How about their narcissistic belief that they are more important than the elderly, those with long term health problems, and the general public? Has anyone paid note that while millions of us have lost jobs, many of which will never return, while not a single government employee has lost a single penny? I had to make an appointment to register a new trailer I bought, when I arrived at the Motor Vehicle Registry the place was empty and there were five employees sitting around with nothing to do. In my 70+ years I don’t recall there ever being a government layoff.
Some positive things have come out of this pandemic. Probably the most important is to show how quickly a vaccine was developed once the bureaucrats were told to cut the unnecessary regulations (most of which have been put in place to protect their jobs).
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually glad that I’m in my 70’s. I shudder when I think how screwed up things are going to be when my grandson reaches my age in 45 years. The reality of the situation is our elected officials think like Winston Churchill, who said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. One can’t help but wonder where the pandemic would be if rather than use it for personal and political gain, our officials had worked together to overcome it.
Then again–REALITY BITES!