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From Westford to Ogunquit, Maine, on March 28, it was clear that social distancing and self quarantining is being taken seriously as the COVID-19 virus kills thousands and infects many more.
Labeled a pandemic, scientists believe that a novel virus never before found in humans is burrowing into patients’ lungs, triggering pneumonia and killing many from young adults to octogenerians. The virus spreads from airborne water droplets when someone sneezes.
In Ogunquit, the shops in Perkins Cove were buttoned up tightly, even though a small number of walkers were circling around them. When the walkers discovered the Marginal Way, too, was closed, they took to the narrow sidewalks.
Faced with oncoming foot traffic and mindful of the mandate to stay 6 feet away from each other, walkers stepped into the winding road to keep their distance as they passed others headed in the opposite direction. They made no eye contact.
In just a few weeks, the culture of familiar communities had transformed into something like a dystopian world where even the Ogunquit beach was off limits to walkers desperate to get some exercise. A police car blocked the entrance.
Back home in Westford, a few days earlier, a Whole Foods shopper was told by a woman with a white mask to step back and move away from her, while a store clerk scanned her groceries.
“Six feet,” said the masked woman. “Stay away.”
Among the most unusual changes in town was the new system for picking up Chinese food at the Westford Bamboo Restaurant for Fine Asian Cuisine. Purchasers were asked for their credit card number when they placed the order. When they arrived at the parking area, they saw a small table outside the main entrance. Every few minutes, a young man wearing a white mask, popped out and tossed a bag or two with a stapled receipt onto the table. Customers carefully checked the bags without touching them to make sure they were taking the correct one.
As residents began to accept the new reality brought on by the Coronavirus, they turned to helping out where needed. Retired Health Director Sandy Collins, a registered nurse, took charge of an effort to sew face masks for those on the front line. As of March 30, there were 72 volunteer needleworkers.
The hub for donated supplies was the Westford Fire Station at 65 Boston Road, where Fire Chief Joe Targ said items could be left inside the vestibule. Needed were N95 masks, surgical masks, isolation gowns, eye protection, and gloves.
Westford Police Capt. Ron Paulaskas said residents could also drop off supplies in the lobby of the Police Station at 53 Main St., or they could call for a pick up at their homes.
Donation opportunities were growing as others tried to lighten the community’s collective mood. On Concord Road one Facebook member announced that the Easter bunny would be in front of her house on Wednesday from 3-5 p.m. to greet children from a distance.
“We know things are hard right now and we want to put a smile on some kids’ faces as there is no greater joy than seeing your kids happy and excited!” said the Facebook contributor.