It’s unfortunately easy to lose a sense of proportion when dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
Asking people from other states to self-quarantine if they arrive in your area isn’t the worst idea in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. Allegedly forcing them into self-quarantine by assembling a mob and dragging a downed tree across a driveway? A bit disproportionate.
Perhaps it’s just the fact that the folks in Vinalhaven, Maine, live on an island and think they can keep the disease at bay by intimidating everyone from the outside world who arrives in order to get them to self-quarantine or get out. These kinds of extreme measures didn’t even work in “The Masque of the Red Death” and I’m going to guess they’re not going to work here, if reports are accurate.
Yes, it may dissuade people from visiting the island. However, avoiding coronavirus from jail seems a bit more difficult.
And let’s be clear, that’s where some residents of the Vinalhaven should be spending some time, if this is true.
According to Fox News, the incident was reported to authorities at 3:35 p.m. on Friday.
Three men in the house had been in Vinalhaven for about month before this, although the Lewiston Sun Journal reported police found a widespread belief among locals that out-of-staters were supposed to be quarantined.
One of the residents left to investigate why his cable wasn’t working and found a tree blocking his road, deliberately dragged there to block vehicles from leaving.
As he was checking on this, a neighbor began yelling at him to get back into quarantine and a crowd gathered, the Sun Journal reported.
Fox News and NBC reported the man said the crowd was armed. Wisely, the man retreated back into his house. He and his housemates kept tabs on the crowd with a drone while contacting the Coast Guard on their VHF radio — the home’s only form of communication, according to the Sun Journal.
A Coast Guard boarding party responded to the scene, according to Fox, along with a Maine Marine Patrol crew and deputies from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
They didn’t find any armed crowd, but they did find a tree that was clearly there to block the individuals there from leaving.
“We are concerned that some believe that anyone from out of the state is potentially infected and needs to be quarantined,” a statement from the Knox County Sheriff read, the Sun Journal reported.
“Whether someone is a Maine resident or not, they have the right to free movement and anyone who infringes upon that free movement is potentially violating the law.”
The sheriff’s office added that it wanted “everyone to be safe and not overreact in this time of uncertainty as it could end poorly.”
And just when you thought this couldn’t get worse, Maine state Rep. Genevieve McDonald weighed in and made sure everyone in the district she represents looked thoroughly terrible.
“There are two guys from [New Jersey], on Vinalhaven who have been renting a house since September while working on a construction job,” she wrote on Facebook Saturday, in a post that was later edited. “They went to the mainland and were targeted because of their license plate when they arrived back on Vinalhaven.”
“There were some words between them and some locals and the conversation apparently didn’t go very well,” she continued. “I did hear the guys from [New Jersey] were fairly arrogant in their response. A group of local vigilantes decided to take matters into their own hands and barricaded these guys into their rental property.” [Emphasis ours — that part was edited out of the post as it appeared Monday morning.]
You heard? Really? A bunch of your constituents confronted New Jerseyans who had been there since September, gone to the mainland but come back and had been there 30 days, according to reports. Those pork-roll eaters were “fairly arrogant in their response” when they were confronted by stupidity, though, so let’s be fair here.
McDonald went on to write (in a part that remains in the edited post) that it wasn’t “the time to develop or encourage an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Targeting people because of their license plates will not serve any of us well. Every person, whether local or from away, who leaves the island and comes back puts their community at risk.”
Which is a totally reasonable thing to say — for someone who had encouraged an “us-vs-them” attitude when she first weighed in.
Yes, New Jersey is one of the areas hardest hit. Yes, people from the New York City area have been requested to self-quarantine. The fact that people persist in fleeing the area and putting others at risk wherever they alight is disheartening. That said, this wasn’t the case with these individuals and I can’t imagine a scenario in which the pitchfork-wielding locals who allegedly confronted the men didn’t know this.
This kind of ignorance about the disease feels about as pervasive as it was in the early days of HIV, if certainly not as mephitic or long-lasting. The thing is that’s the natural response, though. There’s a certain group of people who responds to any crisis using no part of their brain aside from the amygdala (it’s called the “fear center” of the brain for a reason). And this is what you get.
By all means, take coronavirus seriously. Educate yourself about the risks. Take appropriate precautions. Isolate yourself as much as possible. Follow instructions.
Do not, however, drag a tree across the road on someone else’s property to block out-of-state people from leaving their house, no matter how arrogant or New Jerseyan they may be.
I didn’t think that I’d be typing that sentence a month or two ago, but things have gotten real. I understand the fear, but surely we’ve all seen a zombie movie. Surely, too, we’ve all sworn to ourselves as we watched the first act, where the virus is on the ascendant and deranged people overturn cars and set familiar landmarks alight, how we’d never do that.
For the most part, we haven’t, and thank God for that. Maybe it’s just that the people of Vinalhaven don’t get zombie movies on their island. Maybe it’s the whole Maine/Steven King thing. Whatever the case, stop it. Get some help.
No matter how long this lasts, it probably helps to remember you’re more likely to be infected by coronavirus by going outside to cut down a tree and lug it across a driveway than you would by just letting the people in that house go about their business. And that’s even assuming you stay out of jail — which shouldn’t be a safe assumption in this scenario.
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