We are in unprecedented times, watching a pandemic spread throughout the world and our local, national and global economy crash.

In Maine, we have seen a 74% increase in cases since Monday. The U.S. became the country with the highest number of confirmed cases in the world according to the Johns Hopkins website, an increase of 200% since Monday. The quickness of the spread throughout the country has been alarming.

Here in the Midcoast, our beloved restaurants, coffee shops, bars, museums, galleries and stores are closed or desperately trying to survive on take-out orders. The AIO Food Bank is seeing unprecedented requests for assistance. Maine has seen a rocketing number of citizens apply for unemployment this week, while two weeks ago, unemployment benefit requests were at a record low. It has been sudden and overwhelming. Our minds struggle to catch up with events.

So where are we?

Maine has 155 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of today, with one known case in Knox County.

Maine has a shortage of test kits, masks, gloves and swabs, so tests are restricted to patients hospitalized with Covid-19 symptoms, healthcare providers with symptoms, First Responders with symptoms, those over 60 years old with symptoms, those in congregate housing with symptoms and those with underlying medical conditions and symptoms.

For others developing the first signs of fever, sore throat, dry cough, fatigue and mild shortness of breath, they are advised to call their doctor for instructions and to self quarantine at home.

Our local hospital has been preparing for months, but has limited ICU beds and limited ventilators. They have a supply of masks, gowns and gloves but if a surge of active patients hits, they will quickly run out. It appears that 20-31% of confirmed COVID-19 cases require hospital admission and 5-12% of those end up in ICU on a ventilator due to respiratory failure.

Looking at those statistics, you can see why our hospital system will become overwhelmed if the current rate of spread continues. Our health providers are on duty, ready to provide us with the care we need. Our schools have closed until at least the end of April to avoid having the virus sweep through our students and then home to their parents and grandparents.

So what must we do?

1. We must, to the greatest extent possible, stay home; self-isolate and practice social distancing, staying six feet away from people at the grocery store, at the doctor’s, at our parks, playgrounds and while on walks outside. The Governor has asked all non-essential services to shut down and those who are able, work from home.

2. Shop as infrequently as possible, no more than once a week, longer between shops if possible.

3. Leave your reusable bags in the car, set up. Wipe down your cart with provided sanitizer, load your groceries back into your cart after checkout, load your groceries into the deposable bags in your car and use sanitizer on your hands after returning the cart.

4. Avoid social gatherings and avoid physical contact with older friends and family.

5. Offer to shop for those with underlying medical conditions or older age.

6. Stay connected through the phone, social media, email, text and group chats like Zoom.

If we develop symptoms:

1. Self quarantine if exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19. Call your medical provider.

2. Self quarantine at home at the first sign of sore throat, fever, dry cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. Phone your medical provider for advice.

3. Seek medical attention if you are older than 60, have underlying medical conditions or develop worsening shortness of breath.

Most of all, let's check in on those living alone, shop for those who are at great risk due to underlying medical conditions or age, donate to the AIO Food Bank if you can. Volunteer if you can.

The website Rockland Regional Resources is a source of information, assistance and ways to help at tinyurl.com/rockland-resources.

This community is strong, loving and resilient. We will get through this and on the other side, we can be proud of the way people stepped up, volunteered, donated and protected each other.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Tom Lutrell, our city manager or any city councilor. Our contact information is on the city’s website.