Our Viewpoint: Keep your distance, but don’t be distant

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Last Thursday, March 12, life changed in the state of Maine, at least for a while. We learned the coronavirus was here.

Soon, Portland city meetings were being postponed, art and cultural events were canceled, and restaurants were resorting to take-out-only service.

The news grew steadily worse in the succeeding days, as the number of cases increased and became increasingly centered on Cumberland County. People started implementing intense measures of self-quarantine, hunkering down for an extended period to deal with a threatening pandemic, unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 100 years.

We don’t pretend to have any advice or answers beyond what you can find in the media reports you’ve undoubtedly already seen. The mantra of handwashing and social distancing has been drilled into us.

It is clear that we will see many more cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus,  in a short time. And it is likely that Gov. Janet Mills might be forced to order more serious mandatory measures to stop the spread. We would support that.

We also commend Portland city officials, who have set limits on Portland restaurant operations. While the cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Portland’s favorite holiday, is a tough blow, these actions are warranted.

The continuing economic impact nationally and locally will likely be severe. So it will be important to support local businesses where you can and to appreciate the workers who show up to keep things going. The supermarket clerks, the mail carriers, and especially the health-care workers and first-responders – all those who will help us through this tough time.

Restaurants will be hit hard, and their workers and owners will face unprecedented challenges. As long as the businesses stay open, the hungry housebound can show support by ordering take-out and using local delivery services. Many city restaurants have already stepped up to offer curbside delivery, too.

For at least the next two weeks, the operations of the Portland Phoenix will also change, with most staffers working remotely. We will continue to cover the virus and other news as best we can; if you want to contact the editors and reporters or need advertising assistance, please use our email addresses, which are published in print and on our website. We would be interested in hearing how you’re coping with the pandemic and about your encounters with the medical system. 

The good news is that Mainers have a way of pulling together in tough times, and we see that already.

Keep your distance, but keep in touch with each other and make phone calls to check on friends, family and neighbors.

We hope for the best, and meantime, we’ll help each other get through this.