Three miles off the coast of Bar Harbor there is a group of islands called the Cranberry Isles. The small community has found the islands help them feel safer about COVID. Knowing everyone on the island, it’s easier to know where people have been. It’s also easier to be socially distant, since that is what most of the islanders feel is normal. Not many people move to the island, so they are used to seeing the same crowd. But being socially distant took on a whole new meaning when COVID started.
The pandemic has been around for over a year now. As people rushed to the store when COVID started, the islanders seemed to already be prepared. The islanders, already used to have to stock up weeks’ worth of groceries for their families, found what most call a change to be easy.
Since there has been access to the local ferry, some island folk are staying on the island. They find it much safer to stay at home, sticking to their island roots. Tammy Palmer, a year-round resident since 2013, hasn’t left the island since March of 2020. She said, “Knowing who has been where has made me feel more secure about not getting COVID.” The small island community has been a great asset during the pandemic for everyone. Knowing what other people do during the day helps the islanders feel safer.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an effect on us all. But has it brought the island communities closer, or has it made them more divided? Tammy Palmer said, “There are two groups of people on the islands. The group where COVID hasn’t been affected at all, and the people who are more worried about COVID. Those two groups seem to be at odds with each other.” This is where the island communities can relate to other communities. People, regardless of traveling risks, still choose to travel anyway.
Even though the number of tourists is fewer, people are still traveling to the islands. This is not only affecting local businesses such as the Dock Restaurant, but how people socialize as well. Hannah Folsom, a year-round resident since 2006, said, “There is normally a great sense of community when it comes to visiting our elderly. But with social distancing and the risk of exposure, the elderly aren’t getting the amount of visits they normally get.” But the elderly isn’t the only generation that is socializing less.
Socializing with people in the community is a big part of the island communities. In the wintertime there are only about 120 people between the two islands. So making friends with who you have is what islanders do. Hannah Folsom found herself gathered with her island family less after the coronavirus started. She said, “I do miss being with people more. I found socializing had a big effect on the islanders.” Some differences that islanders noticed once the pandemic started was not only having to wear a mask in town, but socializing. Normally people gather once or twice a week to catch up. But different people were finding it harder.
The pandemic might have separated the community a little, but nothing more than normal. Living on an island during COVID has made the islanders feel safer, mentally and physically. Whether it’s asking if anyone is at the store so they can grab something for them or not having many visitors, some things haven’t changed. The island community is used to being able to distance themselves from the world.