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University of Maine students not to return to classes after spring break

Consumers empty store shelves in advance of virus

By Stephen Betts | Mar 12, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The side of the aisle stocking toilet paper was virtually empty Wednesday afternoon at the Hannaford in Rockland.

Toilet paper, anti-bacterial hand wipes and hand sanitizers are flying off local store shelves as fear grows of a possible COVID-19 outbreak.

"Our team is also working hard to help you with your needs at home. As customers are focused on keeping their families well, we've experienced a high demand for products such as cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers," Hannaford Supermarket stated in a news release issued March 11.

"We're working closely with our suppliers to provide you with the products you need, as soon as they're available. We're searching widely for new sources of supplies, and stores have implemented a purchase limit on certain items to ensure that products remain available."

The aisle at the Hannaford in Rockland where toilet paper is stocked was empty Wednesday afternoon other than three large packages of rolls.

The same situation is occurring at the Walmart in Thomaston. The toilet paper aisle was empty and hand wipes were also sold out in afternoon.

A store clerk said the situation has been ongoing for more than a week with toilet paper sold out soon after it is placed on the shelves. Some customers would meet store workers as they came out of the stock rooms and take toilet paper before they got on the shelves.

Hannaford stated in the news release that it has been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those include travel restrictions, cancellations of conferences or other group gatherings, and postponing or canceling of meetings that involve large numbers.

"Within our stores, we're focused on protecting your health and the health of our associates. We practice rigorous cleaning procedures throughout the entire store - from the entryway where we offer sanitizing wipes, to well-maintained bathrooms, to regularly sanitized PIN pads, grocery conveyor belts and other surfaces that people touch frequently. Our food safety practices are also exhaustive and thorough.

We strictly enforce personal hygiene techniques that are most effective at combating viruses, such as hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. And, we've asked associates who are feeling ill to stay home," Hannaford stated.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is encouraging all Maine residents to use the Department of the Secretary of State’s online services.

“At a time when we are being asked to limit our exposure to other people, these services are more valuable than ever, giving all Mainers an option to conduct many types of motor vehicle transactions from their own home,” Secretary Dunlap stated in a March 11 news release.

The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles offers a range of services online, including license renewal, vehicle registration renewal, replacement titles, over-limit permits and more.

The University of Maine system also announced March 11 that on-campus classes would not continue this semester after spring break.

"Effective March 23, UMS universities will transition all in-class academic instruction to online or other pedagogically appropriate distance modalities that do not require in-class presence for the remainder of the spring semester. Graduate, clinical and similarly situated students should be transitioned to remote work, if possible. Individual universities, colleges and departments should provide all material assistance and accommodation possible through this transition," the announcement stated.

The announcement was made after the Rockland center was closed for the day. There was no one immediately available to determine if the Rockland center would also not have in-person classes after spring break.

No confirmed cases have yet been found in Maine but the virus is spreading throughout the country including New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The toilet paper aisle at the Walmart in Thomaston was also empty Wednesday afternoon March 11. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
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Comments (18)
Posted by: Alana Allen | Mar 17, 2020 16:06

I suggest making sure your doors are locked and garages while you are gone. It is possible people may be breaking in homes for toilet paper and food. I for one am double locking doors and bought a camera. I am not hoarding, but am trying to stay on top of things. I would share or help someone if needed in a heart beat.

Posted by: Debra Damon | Mar 14, 2020 07:20

Val it's just a scary thing and maybe we are over reacting but I'd rather ere on the safe side then not. Like I said with 10 years of raising Makayla I have my worries of other children like her, my heart goes out to their families and kids with low immune system. I think the worry is how it swept through other countries. Like everyone is commenting, stay away from large groups, if you are sick stay home, if you need something at the store or drug store, ask someone who isn't sick to pick it up and drop it off on your doorstep. This way you are contained within your home and not spreading anything.

Val if you do find out how it started maybe you can ask Steve Betts to print it to allow others to know. God Bless to everyone.


Posted by: Valerie Wass | Mar 13, 2020 14:01


My sincere apology for attacking you here online.  As many are, I am so frustrated with the world for not being able to stop this virus.  Now that it is here in Maine, my eyes are open wider and I now understand how it spreads, the length someone could be carrying the disease, etc.  I have done my homework and Debra Damon open my eyes even wider with her response to me.  The best thing for me to do is keep update each day with the virus here in Maine and stay educated each day on the virus.  Again, my sincere apologies.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Mar 13, 2020 13:56

Your right Debbie. Steve should report what is going on. My apologies for appearing like I didn't care.  I do.  This whole situation frustrates me, as I am sure that others are as well.

Now that the virus is now in Maine, wouldn't the smartest thing to do would be to quarantine the whole state of Maine for two weeks?  But than we still have people traveling from other states.  It is so so frustrating.  Now that this virus has shown up in Maine, I am getting extremely concerned.


Thank you Debbie for the educational response to me.  I really do appreciate it.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Mar 13, 2020 13:47

K, time to quarruntine everyone to their houses for two weeks in Maine.  Won't that stop the virus or at at least slow it down?

Posted by: Debra Damon | Mar 13, 2020 06:13

Val, I have to say that Steve is writing to let us all know what is going on. Some of us have children with disabilities that this "Flu" could kill. So to cancel things is a precautionary step that I as a parent appreciate. Why wouldn't people be worried Val? There are kids in school now that don't have good hygiene because of their home life and taking a precautionary step for others to not get sick. This flu seems to be stronger then any others ever seen. I don't always agree with all that is written by Steven Betts but this story is needed for the simple fact of letting our Community know what is going on. Having faith in God will not change what is going on. I belive in God but he didn't save Makayla when she got sick! I have friends that have children like Makayla, that this flu could kill them. I for one of always gone the extra step to keep things sanitized because I was raising a handicapped child. So I pray our state doesn't get out of control like others with this virus. Having Steven Betts write about it to keep us informed is a good thing! Thank you Steven Betts for writing this important article, for once I'm 100% behind you.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Mar 12, 2020 19:26


We can go back and forth forever about this pandemic issue.  I never said that I did not care about the elderly. On the contrary.  I refuse to get sucked into all the postponements, cancellations, etc. due to the panic that is all around the world. Local events are either being postponed or cancelled.  Why?  I guess I just have so much more faith in God than most people do.  I refuse to let a pandemic run my life.  Yes, there is ONE case in Maine.  Yes, there will no doubt be more.  But to postpone or cancel events and have schools shutdown and the students study remotely is more than I can handle. The best way to not get sick from ANY FLU is good hygiene.  I have practiced that for so many years now and yes, even more so now BUT NOT OVERBOARD.  Do you know why the population is buying all the toilet paper yep?  Paper towels makes sense but toilet paper?  This is gone way beyond what is necessary in my opinion.

Posted by: Susan Vanorse | Mar 12, 2020 15:56

I think I figured out the toilet paper thing, families are not home anymore, kids in school, day cares, parents at work, so people who generally only keep a limited amount at home are worried if the whole family is home they are going to need a lot more.

Posted by: Cynthia Mary Anderson | Mar 12, 2020 14:58

Judy, I was leaning more towards using the tissues for toilet paper, since we don't have the good old Sears catalog anymore.  hee hee

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Mar 12, 2020 14:37

Valerie, That is simply not true. I have not read one media report that says "we are all going to die." And yes, so far this virus is more serious for people older than 60. Do we not care about those people? The mortality rate for people older than 60 and particularly over 80 is much higher than the seasonal flu.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Mar 12, 2020 13:39


It is the way that the media, CDC and governments are handling this.  It is the way the media portrays this virus.  Like we are all going to die.  When in fact, it is mostly the elderly or people with low immune symptoms that are dying from this virus.

There have been

34,000,000 - 49,000,000 flu illnesses from October 1, 2019 through February 29, 2020 in the US.

20,000 -52,000 deaths.


Why is this flu so much worse than all the others?

Posted by: Judy Johnson | Mar 12, 2020 13:21

It's a respiratory virus, why aren't the tissues sold out?  Well,  guess they can use all that toilet paper for tissues .

Posted by: Cynthia Mary Anderson | Mar 12, 2020 12:26

Francis, you crack me up!!  What are they going to do with all that toilet paper?  Wrap it around their heads?  Just kidding.  I do think (as a retired RN) that wearing a mask will be ineffective against the coronavirus.  As soon as the mask gets wet, you have another breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.  Also, I went to Hannaford yesterday, and thank you, I bought my toilet paper last week, before the mad rush.  I did notice, however, that they are selling Hannaford unscented tissues for $1.12 or .20 or something like that.  So I snagged a couple of boxes.  Why?  I don't know.  Just did.  The best defense is keeping areas CLEAN and HANDWASHING!!  If you wash your hands and sing Happy Birthday or Yankee Doodle while you're washing your hands with hot, soapy water, you reduce your chances of getting ill by a huge margin.  And stay home.     Maine Health has issued a statement today, explaining how they are prepared for handling the virus when it comes.  Call your doctor FIRST if you notice symptoms.  Otherwise, you will just crowd and overwhelm the emergency rooms!  Do not panic, and use common sense.  And if you don't find a mask anywhere, just wrap that toilet paper around your head.  Sometimes, you just have to improvise.  :D. Stay well, my friends.  And wash those hands!!!!


Posted by: Stephen Betts | Mar 12, 2020 09:55

Valerie, how in heck do you blame the media for the pandemic? This is a virus that has spread across the world. We are informing the public on steps to take to reduce the spread (washing hands, staying home when sick, etc.). We then report on actions of other organizations whether it be the schools, city, county, state, and federal government. That is unfair of you to blame the media. We are reporting the facts. Would you rather be ignorant of what is happening?

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 12, 2020 09:25

Look for toilet paper cheap at your local lawn sale as soon as this gets under control.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Mar 12, 2020 09:13

Wass up? Toilet paper hording is due to citizens' panic, about which Trump only fuels with his incompetence. As to state and federal governments, especially federal, the CDC is made up of scientific experts USA needs to monitor the virus, provide needed info. to citizens and work on an immunization for Covid-19.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Mar 12, 2020 08:51

This is so out of hand.  Why the toilet paper?  Haven't heard an answer yet.  Steve, I get why you have to report on this virus but the media is at fault of creating this panademic.  I am so upset with the media, CDC and the State and Federal Government.  This has gotten so so out of control, yet the media, CDC, State and Federal Government are just fueling this pandemic.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Mar 12, 2020 08:21

Good article Steve. How about doing an article on how well - or ill - prepared PenBay Med. Ctr. is, e.g. do they even have testing kits available and how many?

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