From residents brightening people’s day with clouds of bubbles or an offer to walk the neighbors’ dogs, to Hanson firefighters helping seniors with grocery or pharmacy errands — and a trade school putting its 3D printer to work making protective masks for area hospitals — people in the region continued to step up during the coronavirus emergency last week.
Adhering to the rules of social distancing this reporter sought fresh air and sunshine and grabbed a quick walk outside in Whitman Park this weekend.
It appears that families are starting to feel the strain of self isolation in attempts to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Ernesto Hernandez of Whitman has tried to generate a smile for others as he and his daughter Thalia Hernandes, 5, spent their lunch time at the Whitman Park blowing bubbles this week.
During this time he hopes to make things a bit more bearable despite the CDC guidelines for the six-foot distance we are supposed to be from one another. Every day last week they walked around the town and Whitman Park at lunch time with bubbles to brighten other people’s day. Hernandez is homeschooling Thalia while his wife works remotely from home, he said. He kept her away from others as they enjoyed the fresh air.
“Having some bubbles pop on your cheek can break up the monotony,” he said. “It is great that everyone is doing what is needed, he added, “but you can’t seclude humanity.”
As the bubbles blew across the park they shared a dance in the sunlight. They were distributing a little bit of cheerful optimism in Hernandez’ day as well.
“Who doesn’t love bubbles?” laughed Hernandez.
Alerted to the need for personal protective masks issues by Massachusetts General Hospital to all entities that own 3D printers, South Shore Tech Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey, said his school is helping produce PPE. The formula for the masks had been posted online, according to Boston media outlets.
“I immediately gave it to the people smarter than me,” Hickey said. “Our engineering instructor is now networked about nine 3D printers and we’re making 30 to 50 face shields a day. I’ve got a couple of staff volunteers and we’re bringing them to South Shore Hospital [and] Brockton Hospital.”
Hickey said he is also talking with a Whitman woman who used to work at Children’s Hospital as well as Beth Israel-Plymouth, Hanover fire and EMS for whom SST is also making face shields.
“This one individual is just stepping up in a big way and, to his credit, it’s not about him and he really doesn’t want any attention,” Hickey said. “Even though the building’s closed and most people are working remotely all the time, he’s going in to keep the 3D printers firing.”
Hickey said the mask design posted online was fine, but not at a quality that was needed and the teacher suggested the face shield would be a better option.
“Everyone we’re talking to is saying thank you, thank you,” he said. “Now we’re getting requests for replacement masks.”
In Hanson, Firefighter Tim Royer developed a program, along with Deputy Fire Chief Robert O’Brien Jr., offering to pick up prescriptions or other needs — within reason — for any Hanson seniors that are home-bound. They met with Senior Center Director Mary Collins to arrange for the project.
“They first need to go through Mary Collins, [who] will get the contact information for us,” O’Brien said. “They’ll reach out to us, let us know what they need and we’ll try to go and get it.”
Only a couple of hours after launching the program, Royer was out picking up a prescription for a senior citizen. He has already discussed the project with CVS, Shaw’s and Osco Drug as well as other surrounding pharmacies. The firefighters’ union fronts the money when they pick up an item and seniors reimburse the union account by check. For more information, call Mary Collins at 781-293-2683.
“This is just for senior citizens,” O’Brien stressed. “It can’t be for the average homeowner. … It’s a free thing and the chief’s 100-percent supportive of it. This is our way of helping out the most vulnerable.”
Amanda McKee, a Whitman middle schooler said she and her brother Zach, a WHRHS student, are both out of school do to the closings in the state. A position as a dog walker can be added to their résumés now that these siblings undertook a crash course in dog-walkery.
Last week they strolled with Shadow, Vera, and Murray at the Whitman Park. The canines belong to their neighbor and they got their recent employment with help from their mom, they said.
The McKee’s are helping out another family as everyone begins to adjust to new norms of balancing working, and home life.
The dogs did not quite understand social distancing with one another but made for a laugh as the instant dog sitters got a quick lesson in doggy duty.
With smiles from afar the respite of fresh air was much needed. An adult and child could be seen on the top of the sledding hill with a blanket and basket overlooking the park.
In the recent updates from Whitman town officials the strict guidelines of social distancing and staying home for extended periods will be in place to continue to slow the progression of the coronavirus.
(Express Editor Tracy F. Seelye contributed to this report.)