Out and about in a brave new Dartmouth

Mar 17, 2020

Empty playgrounds and school parking lots lent an eerie atmosphere to Dartmouth on Monday, March 16, the first day of closed schools during the global coronavirus pandemic.

But many were still out and about in the sunshine — and most keeping a precautionary six feet of distance from others — despite the fears.

Several businesses in Padanaram had hand-written notices taped to their doors announcing closures during the crisis, but individuals and groups of people were still walking in the brisk spring air.

“It’s been unsettling,” said resident Elizabeth Carbone, who was walking into the village from the causeway with a few of her friends.

The group — all retired, and enjoying it — usually goes to the YMCA in the morning to work out together, but the Dartmouth Y has closed its doors indefinitely. “We’re not sure what’s open, what’s closed, and what we can go to, and what we can’t,” Carbone noted.

“So far, everything is really more, for me, psychological,” said Barbara Bell. “It’s the worry and the anxiety over what will happen.”

“The problem is, we’re very active people, so what are you gonna do?” asked Mary Hurwitz. “I’m an artist, so I’m okay in my studio. And I like to read, and it’s getting nice outside. But I will start to go bonkers. You can’t stay in.”

“I’m used to being out and about, and I’m very worried about feeling claustrophobic,” agreed Bell.

Other residents have elderly relatives to care for. 

“There’s a lot of upheaval in our lives,” said resident Katy, who preferred her last name not be used. She is shopping and making food for her elderly mother, who lives in her own apartment.

“She had caregivers coming in, but we have suspended them,” she explained. “So we’re having family take over the responsibilities, but we also have family members that are working in high-risk environments. So it’s daily re-assessing.”

Her husband’s job means that he meets with over 100 random different people every day. 

“We’re trying to not let that pathway get to my mom,” Katy said. “I’m sterilizing my hands and everything, I’m cooking for her and shopping for her, and handing it off to a safe family member at a distance.” The safe family member then makes the delivery to her mom.

“It’s pretty crazy,” she added. “We’re just trying to keep her alive.”

Several families brought their children out of the house to walk in the popular Destruction Brook Woods, which has miles of trails — enough to keep social distancing even with a nearly full parking lot.

Dartmouth schools orchestra teacher Heather Church brought her family outside for a hike in the sunshine.

“We’re getting out walking a whole lot more,” she said. “We’ve gone on a hike a day. That’s our plan.”

Church and husband Joe Yarmac, who teaches at Bristol-Plymouth vocational school, have been homeschooling their kids, who would normally be at Potter school on a Monday. 

Seven-year-old Ella Yarmac and her older brother Julian were looking for sticks nearby.

“It’s pretty good,” said ten-year-old Julian of the homeschooling. “Mom and Dad started teaching us stuff. So we get to do math and reading.”

“Coach Yarmac! Calisthenics in the basement,” added his dad with a laugh.

“Our walk today is part of their art project,” explained Church. “We’re just trying to make it as fun as possible. And this is it. We’re not gonna see anybody else, other than the people here. So we’re making the best of it.”

“We’re very fortunate, because we’re both teachers,” she added. “So we get to be home with them.”

“We went and bought a couple projects, like a Lego set, and stuff,” said Julian. He and his sister planned to make a fort out of sticks for a Dartmouth Schools PTO competition.

“It’s really fun,” he added. “It’s not really that much work. It’s honestly just like, what do you want to learn about, and we learn about it. And we came out here, so it’s really fun.”

Meanwhile two sisters from New Bedford were picnicking with their children and pup Baz near the trailhead.  

“It’s kind of difficult for us as parents to work and stuff still,” said Alexis André. “But we’re just making it work right now.”

“It’s kind of cool,” she added. “We’ve never been here before.”

“We work in residential care, so we’re still working,” said her sister Amanda Reis. “But right now I just took the day off to take care of the kids because it was kind of short notice.”

They added that they don’t really have a plan for the rest of the time the kids will be out of school. 

“We’re just taking it day by day,” Amanda said.