Upper Valley residents choose to isolate themselves rather than risk getting sick

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    Ann Perbohner, of Lebanon, left, passes friends and former co-workers Cecilia Tittemore, middle, and Mark Mounts, right, of West Lebanon on her way to vote at the Ward 1 polls at Kilton Library in West Lebanon, N.H., Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Perbohner is taking precautions against possible exposure to COVID-19 due to her own asthma and other health conditions, and wore a mask and gloves while voting. She has also been limiting trips out of her house. "Maybe I'm over reacting, but I'm doing well," she said. "I don't feel isolated." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Ann Perbohner talks over a video call with friend Mary Giveen, of Grantham, from her home in West Lebanon, N.H., Monday, March 11, 2020. Perbohner, who has asthma and other health concerns, is limiting her trips from home and contact with other people due to concerns over exposure to COVID-19. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/11/2020 10:18:27 PM
Modified: 3/11/2020 10:18:15 PM

WEST LEBANON — Ann Perbohner has canceled physical therapy and doctor appointments.

Amelia Sereen has stopped going to her daily chair exercise class at the Upper Valley Senior Center.

And Douglas Shane and his wife, Deb Delmore, are hunkering down in Vershire and have decided not to travel to Lebanon this weekend to see their grandchildren.

With at least three cases of COVID-19 having been detected in the Upper Valley, senior citizens and others who may be especially vulnerable to the new coronavirus are cutting back on activities and isolating themselves to avoid possible exposure.

“We’re taking every precaution that is recommended. My wife went shopping a few days ago, and she made up her own hand sanitizer and wore gloves when she was in the supermarket and pumped gas,” Shane, a 72-year-old writer and consultant, said Wednesday.

Perbohner, a 65-year-old retired librarian who has two underlying medical conditions, one related to a respiratory issue, has ventured out cautiously, wearing masks and gloves to vote Tuesday, and said she is “a little fearful because we don’t know how much exposure correlates to a transmission.”

Perbohner notes that her West Lebanon home is not far from the church where health officials said the virus was transmitted from one worshiper to another on March 1, and also near Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where two employees have reported being infected.

She hasn’t had her annual furnace cleaning yet, and worries whether it’s a good idea to have a technician in her home for two hours, even though she also doesn’t want to be suspicious of others.

“My doctor said, ‘Yes, you are at risk.’ He didn’t say stay in. Nobody told me to, but I value my life,” said Perbohner, who also said, “I’m assuming this could go on for months.”

The 77-year-old Sereen, a retired physician assistant who has survived a heart attack, said she is also trying to limit her contact with others and is shopping less and attending fewer functions, including the exercise class. Though she can still go running outside, Sereen, a former chairwoman of the Lebanon Zoning Board, said the uncertainty is unsettling.

“Part of me says you are being ridiculous, just live your life normally. But then I say the stakes are high, especially for somebody like me,” she said. “I am over 65, and I have underlying health conditions.”

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that older adults and people with underlying conditions, such as lung or heart disease, avoid crowds as much as possible, wash hands often, stock up on supplies and limit close contact with others.

“During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed,” the CDC website says.

Shane said he and his wife have talked about past plagues, such as the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 in the U.S., and are curtailing activities such as visits with family.

“We’re mindful about that. We just want to protect ourselves and other people as best we can,” Shane said.

Institutions around the Upper Valley continued to take new precautions as well. Kimball Union Academy, for instance, on Wednesday announced it has canceled “rentals of our facilities in order take preemptive measures and practice social distancing,” according to spokeswoman Tricia McKeon. That in turn has affected the Lightning Soccer Club, which uses an indoor practice facility at the Meriden school.

Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital also closed its function room at the Harvest Hill retirement community to non-APD personnel, affecting Rotary meetings and other events.

Others are isolating as well. One of the attendees at the March 1 church service in West Lebanon is a teacher at FitKids Childcare at River Valley Club in Lebanon, according to River Valley Club owner Elizabeth Asch.

The teacher, who has no symptoms, has been on quarantine this week, but taught at FitKids last week before learning about the possible exposure at the church.

“Although this teacher has no symptoms, the authorities have asked that everyone at that church event stay home and self-quarantine,” Asch said in an email Wednesday. “We encouraged this teacher to stay home and keep us informed. So far this teacher remains symptom-free.”

FitKids leaders informed families of the teacher’s quarantine in messages Monday, and as a result Asch said “one family has decided to keep their child home because there is an individual with fragile health living in their household.”

Municipal officials also are taking steps to help people who are trying to avoid going out in public.

Woodstock Fire Chief David Green said some residents have returned from travel to COVID-19 trouble spots overseas, and emergency services personnel are working with other groups in town to make sure people will have adequate food, water and medications so they can keep their quarantine in place.

Residents can call a hotline in town and provide a grocery list and credit card, and Woodstock officials will help coordinate through Mac’s Market grocery store in town, he said.

“We’ll pick it up and get it delivered,” said Green, who said Tuesday one person so far had availed themselves of the service. “Everyone is working together to try to give people what they need.”

Officials in Lebanon, Lyme and Hanover said they also would coordinate with groups in their communities to provide assistance if needed.

Staff writer Nora Doyle-Burr contributed to this report. John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.

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