Vinalhaven, Maine: Caring, Responsible Community or Vigilante Town?

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 7:00pm

The Town of Vinalhaven sent this news release following the recent episode, Knox S.O. investigates Vinalhaven incident: Tree cut to barricade driveway, quarantine demanded, which made national news.

VINALHAVEN — As many Vinalhaven residents were returning from winter vacations in the U.S. and abroad, the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold in the U.S. and making its way into Maine.  Vinalhaven’s Public Health Team convened and called on the Town to begin the practice of social distancing, and requested those returnees to self quarantine for fourteen days.  The returnees complied with the request. 

The Town response to the pandemic has been one of full cooperation and generous outreach to neighbors.  As with all communities, businesses and individuals out of work are hard hit financially, yet all are working tirelessly to meet the needs of citizens.   On just the subject of food:

  • The school makes breakfast and lunch for its children and delivers it to their homes

  • Local organizations and churches  deliver meals to seniors and others who request them
  • The grocery store, which is closed to public access, fills phone or internet orders.  These orders are picked up at the door or, upon request, are delivered to homes
  • One person started a pay it forward fund at the grocery store to help folks who can’t pay for their food; others continue to add to that fund

 

And as the anxiety and loneliness of social distancing build up,  one resident is growing extra seedlings so that others may start gardens,  another is coaching stress relief using Zoom,  the Fire and EMS crews  are making fire truck and ambulance parades to help isolated youngsters celebrate their birthdays, and plans for Easter egg deliveries are in the works. 

Churches, social organizations, members of the ambulance service, and unaffiliated others call their members and neighbors frequently to offer cheer and information.

Yet one incident, born of fear and misinformation is what made the news. 

The fear comes from a true understanding that sitting twelve miles out to sea, Vinalhaven is at the end of the line. 

The island has a 24-7 FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center)  staffed by dedicated professionals.  It is, however, a clinic, not a hospital, and it has no overnight beds and no ventilators. 

Should a patient with COVID-19 require hospitalization, and if weather conditions are right, the EMS professionals might be able to arrange transport off the island by fixed wing plane or rescue helicopter. 

It is more likely that the trip will be on a seventy-five minute ferry ride.  The fear is that people from other states running from their highly infected communities could bring the virus to Vinalhaven and overwhelm its resources.

Misinformation coupled with fear led to an unfortunate incident led by one or two people.  

Emotions are running high throughout the nation, but on Vinalhaven the response to the Covid-19 pandemic is, for most people, a thoughtful, rational  approach to slowing its progress and caring for its people, with no tolerance for vigilante action.  

 

Andrew Dorr, Town Manager (207) 863-3042

Patricia Lundholm, Public Information Officer (207) 607-3763