It’s been another strange week in Ipswich as normal daily routines rapidly wind down and come to a complete standstill for many.
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a disease first talked of as happening in far-away China, is now very much on our doorsteps.
Since last week’s paper was published, the number of confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. on March 23 in Massachusetts has jumped to 1,159; it has caused 11 deaths.
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In Essex County (the northeastern part of the state), the Department of Public Health has recorded 118 cases.
Boxford was one of the first local communities to announce, on March 19, that it had three people and another possibly afflicted with the virus. Newburyport said it had four suspected cases the same day.
The following day, March 20, Ipswich said it was told by the state that one resident had the disease. Topsfield also reported cases on March 20.
On March 21, EBSCO said one of its Ipswich employees was suffering from the illness. However, the company did not say which town the patient lives in.
Also on March 21, Gloucester’s Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken ordered personal-care businesses, such as hairdressers and nail salons, to close to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
However, in Ipswich and many other communities, businesses had already started to shut down due to fears about the illness and the precipitous drop in custom.
On March 23, the rest of Cape Ann followed suit; Rockport said it had two cases, and Manchester reported one.
The same day, Rowley officials said two people in town had the disease.
In all of the announcements, officials told the public to expect many more cases as testing becomes more widespread.
Also on March 23, Gov. Charlie Baker stepped up the state’s attempt to control the spread of the disease; he ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
That order took effect at at noon on Tuesday, March 24, and will stay in effect until April 7.
In all of this upheaval, there is the good, the bad and the ugly.
In some good news, people are organizing to help out whatever way they can. In this issue, we report on a group of women (mostly) who have found patterns and instructions on how to sew surgical masks.
A number of different groups around town have started organizing efforts to get the masks into the right hands and onto the right faces.
In some bad news, the outdoors is also being closed down. Just last week, it was being touted as an invaluable resource for people to get out for exercise and a possible sanity check. The Trustees had even abolished entrance fees on its locations.
But on March 23, news came from Ipswich that Crane Beach would be closed four days a week. And, on the other three days, it would be open to Ipswich residents only.
But it got worse after Baker’s announcement. “The Trustees has made the difficult decision to temporarily close all outdoor properties from Tuesday, March 24 through Tuesday, April 7 at noon. This includes Crane Beach in Ipswich, and World’s End in Hingham.”
For the ugly, police issued warnings about scammers and price gougers trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis.
There were reports from other areas of people wearing face masks and lab coats pretending to be medical professionals to gain entry to houses.
Police have also advised residents to report price gouging to the state attorney general’s office.