MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Some seasonal residents are coming weeks or even months earlier than usual this year in an attempt to reduce their risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
They have been calling plumbers on the island and asking them to turn on the water.
“In the past five days, we’ve had requests from four people to turn on the water in five homes because they are coming up to escape,” Randy Sprague, owner of Randy Sprague Heating & Plumbing in Town Hill, said Tuesday.
“One of the people, from the Washington, D.C. area, has a son who’s out of school, so she decided to bring him up here. Another came up from Brookline, Mass. Two others were from New York City, and they just thought it would be safer here.”
Sprague said two of the MDI seasonal homes are in Bar Harbor, two are in Mount Desert and one is in Tremont.
He said he joked with one of the homeowners, telling her, “We’re going to test you [for the virus] at the Trenton Bridge.”
Ralph Dunbar of Northeast Plumbing & Heating in Northeast Harbor said he had received calls from “a couple dozen” seasonal homeowners who wanted their water turned on.
Hillard Walls of Hillard Walls & Sons Plumbing & Heating in Bar Harbor said he had heard from two seasonal residents who wanted him to turn their water on early.
“Once I explained that we still have the rest of the winter here, they decided not to do it,” he said. “They have hot water heat that’s drained every year. You can fill it full of water and turn it on, but if the power should go out for some reason, it’s going to freeze up.”
Walls said one of the summer homes is in Bar Harbor, the other in Northeast Harbor. When not on MDI, one of the owners lives in Massachusetts and one in Florida.
The move of seasonal residents to come up early has also caught the attention of year-round area residents who have taken to social media to debate the pros and cons. While some believe that paying taxes and owning property entitles seasonal residents to come no matter the time of year, others stress that with limited resources on MDI, the healthcare system may not be equipped for an additional influx of people.
“Are we really debating denying people access to their homes?,” one person asked on a Bar Harbor-specific Facebook page, while others asked that those who travel stay in their homes and self-quarantine for two weeks.
Correction: Ralph Dunbar is not the owner of Northeast Plumbing and Heating, as stated in the print version of the article. The Islander apologizes for the error.