ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY — People returning to the Androscoggin Valley from winter quarters or second home owners hoping to ride out the coronavirus crisis here are all being urged to self-quarantine for at least two weeks after arriving in the valley.

Most local municipalities have issued directives asking people returning or coming to the area to self-quarantine for two weeks, regardless of whether they have been exposed to the virus or exhibit any symptoms of it. Last week, Gov. Sununu issued a stay-in-place order closing all non-essential businesses and limiting travel to encourage people to stay home.

Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier said this is the time of year many so-called snow birds return to the area after spending the winter months in warmer states such as Florida and Arizona. While the residents may be following preventive practices in their winter location, Grenier said the journey home will increase their exposure. He noted that just pumping gas creates a risk.

There are also second home owners coming to the valley because Coos County has yet to have a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

Randolph Health Officer Dr. John McDowell issued a letter asking all high-risk people who have recently arrived in that village to self-quarantine. McDowell said individuals coming “from population-dense areas with significant CV infection rates to “escape the virus” must be considered “high risk”, adding that is especially true of those from the New York City area. During that two weeks, he said they should not leave their house other than to sit on their porch, go for a walk on empty roads and areas, or isolated car rides.

Gorham has also issued a self-quarantine directive, noting the “voluntary quarantine relies upon individuals to use common sense, good judgement, and concern for the safety of others in the community.”

While Coos County has not had a COVID-19 case, health and public officials say it is just a matter of time before the virus surfaces here. Like other rural counties across the country, the county’s low density and its isolation from a large population area has slowed the spread of the virus. That is providing officials and the health care network time to prepare. With five nursing homes and an aging population, the county has a higher than average percentage of people considered vulnerable to the virus. The fear is when the virus strikes the area it could easily overwhelming the limited healthcare capacity.

Grenier and Berlin City Manager James Wheeler said the effort to get residents to follow recommended preventive steps and stay-at-home is designed to reduce the number of people needing treatment at any one time or “flattening the curve” to avoid overloading the health care system.

People can help out by washing their hands frequently, avoiding high-touch surfaces in public places, avoid touching your face, avoid all non-essential travel, avoid crowds, and stay home as much as possible.

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