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What Life Is Like In Maine's Only County With No Known COVID-19 Cases

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Beth J. Harpaz
/
Associated Press/file
This Aug. 27, 2014, file photo, shows an early stretch of Hunt Trail, a 5.2-mile route up Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park in Maine.

Piscataquis County is the only county in Maine with no positive COVID-19 tests so far. County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Capraro spoke with Maine Public's Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz about how the county has - and has not - been affected.GRATZ: Sir, If I'm walking down the street in, say, Greenville, does it look fairly normal?

CAPRARO: No, definitely. The streets are a lot emptier, you know. And you will see the people wearing masks and stuff, and they're keeping their distances. You know, the Greenville area - I mean, that's a lot of tourists that come up, and a lot of people with second homes. And everybody seems to be doing well - even, you know, even the ones that we know people have come up maybe a little earlier from their time in Florida or what have you, and they're quarantining themselves. And the town's doing a great job.

What's being done to address the situation in your county, even though you haven't had any positive tests yet?

We keep trying to get the message out through our office, and through towns and everybody involved. And, you know, it's definitely a lot of community involvement. Greenville - we talk, they have a nice group of,  like, a task force, if you will, for the virus, and we have conference calls at least once a week now. We've got two hospitals in Piscaquatis - we have CA Dean in Greenville and Mayo Hospital in Dover, and we're assisting to look at maybe if we have to make another alternate care center, or what have you, if they're really overwhelmed. That's one of the things with this job - you always plan for the worst and try to look out of the box.

Yeah, how about in the out-of-doors so far? You know, there's obviously a lot of room up in Piscaquatis County - I imagine not a problem with people congregating any one place?

I mean, we're the size of Connecticut, and we basically have a population under 17,000. So there's a lot of places you can go with your family for walks, and people seem to be really doing well with that. I know I've worked along with Baxter State Park, and we decided to just close that for the season, but also, you know, they're open for, like, day walks and hikes and stuff like that. We are so rural, people can get outside, people can still do a lot of things nature wise.

You were talking before about getting the message out there - anybody doing anything special to get that message out there? Or is it just through the media, the way people have been generally finding out what's going on?

We have a Facebook page and we send out daily - usually daily - reminders and daily information. Again, I gotta go back to the stores and the markets - they're really stepping up. I know one in particular, a little Shop and Save in Dover here, they are even offering free delivery service. There's a group of volunteers in the town, so if you get, you know, an elderly couple maybe afraid to go out, or elderly people, single moms or something like that, they offer free delivery from a group. The schools are still doing their feeding programs that the kids usually have. The food cupboards - they're noticing a little spike in some of the needs and they keep me informed how their food is going,

At this point, what would concern you? So far, everything seems to be going well there, but what do you worry about?
 
The thing that worries me the most is if people start letting their guard down, especially now because the weather's getting warm, and, you know, they want to get together. And hopefully that doesn't happen, but you got to prepare for it. I believe this will go on for quite a while. But I think it's definitely going to change the way we do a lot of things around this county, and every county. I get a little ribbing every once in a while - they keep saying, 'Oh, he must be doing a good job.' Well, it's not me that's doing a good job. It's the people of Piscaquatis County that are doing a good job. I'm just here for the ride.

County Emergency Management Agency director Tom Capraro, speaking from the only county in Maine yet to confirm a positive COVID-19 case.