FALMOUTH, Maine — Life inside Maine’s retirement communities and nursing homes is designed to be carefree and comfortable, with game nights, group dining and other activities filling in time between family visits.
But for residents of OceanView at Falmouth, a retirement community where two people presumptively tested positive for the new coronavirus this weekend, daily life has ground to a halt.
A resident in his 80s tested positive for COVID-19 and is being treated at Maine Medical Center in Portland. State health officials have said the man’s spouse also tested positive. These and other Cumberland County cases have been cited by health officials as examples of how the virus is spreading between Mainers who have not traveled internationally.
Older people and those with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable to serious illness if they contract the virus. The town of Falmouth has also said two first responders have been quarantined for 14 days after treating a coronavirus patient.
There have been no activities or gatherings among the residents at OceanView at Falmouth, said Deena Weinstein, a 72-year-old who has lived in an apartment at OceanView since 2014. Visitors are no longer allowed, and residents don’t eat together anymore either, she said.
There’s “absolutely nothing to do that was normal before,” Weinstein said. As a “social creature,” wiping the calendar clean of scheduled events has been the hardest part.
She’s had no contact with anyone who has the virus, as far as she knows, and is experiencing no fever or other symptoms, but it hasn’t allayed her worry. She assumes that all OceanView residents will be tested soon.
“Only time will tell,” Weinstein said.
To pass the time, she’s been cooking, listening to the radio and reading — “if I can concentrate” — she said. No visitors are allowed, so she can’t see her family, but they do speak to each other via FaceTime every day.
Weinstein has an eye surgery scheduled for next week, she said. But after Gov. Janet Mills recommended Sunday night that people postpone many nonemergency procedures to make room for coronavirus patients, Weinstein is uncertain whether that will happen.
Betta Stothart’s mother, Roberta, 85, also lives at OceanView at Falmouth, in a semi-independent apartment. Stothart, who also lives in Falmouth, last saw her mother on Tuesday. She found out about the two cases while on a walk with her family, yesterday. Her mother sent her a text with the news.
“I immediately called her to get more details,” Stothart said. “She was incredibly upbeat and positive. I’ve been reading about Seattle and Italy, and I’m extremely concerned about her wellbeing.”
An OceanView spokesperson did not return a call requesting comment. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance for nursing homes and long-term care facilities that restricts visitors outside of end-of-life considerations.
Stothart said she understands the lockdown. Her mother’s apartment has a door to the outside and Stothart would like to bring her mother food but doesn’t yet know if that will be allowed.
“People need to take this very, very seriously. When It hits home in your family, it suddenly takes on a completely different meaning,” Stothart said.
Weinstein said that one of her biggest concerns is how the country will juggle the coronavirus response entering the 2020 election, fearing it could lead to conspiracy theories. Roberta Stothart said the situation reminds her of World War II, including the run on food at stores.
“In one day, everything went from white to black,” she said. “All candy disappeared as well as meat, butter, sugar, milk and bread stopped daily deliveries — and few cars were on the streets. Everyone huddled around the family radio for all news.”
The elder Stothart isn’t all that worried, though.
“We are a much stronger country now, and we can survive this,” she said.