Snowbirds are flocking north earlier than usual to escape the coronavirus, while winter weekenders are hunkered down in their winter ski homes, several Maine contractors have observed.

Pete Kamm, owner of Pete’s Plumbing and Heating Inc. in Strong, said he was listening last week to a Boston talk radio show when the host observed everyone in that city was fleeing to their summer homes in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

“The plumbers were being driven crazy trying to open those houses early,” Kamm said.

Then his phone rang.

“All of a sudden it started happening to me, too,” he said Wednesday.

And not just him.

“I’ve heard from other plumbers in the area the same thing is going on all over,” he said.

Although the number of panicked callers has since subsided, Kamm said some of the summer homeowners were insistent that he get their plumbing working so they could bring their families and friends north “because they’re running from New York,” which has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases of any state in the country.

Kamm said he doesn’t normally prepare those homes until late May or June.

“Some of these houses aren’t really even designed for heating” he said. “They’re meant to be summer houses. So they’re kind of roughing it a little.”

In some cases, their driveways haven’t been plowed because they’re not usually in their houses until the snow has long melted.

John Maynard, owner of Maynard Plumbing in New Portland, said he can’t get into many winter homes now where he would normally be performing routine maintenance.

Those ski homeowners either returned to escape their more populated residential homes farther south or they never left after Sugarloaf closed down for the season March 15.

“If they’re occupied, I won’t go into them,” he said.

“The people who are staying there, they’ve escaped from their homes to get away from the coronavirus,” he said.

He’s gotten calls from some of them, usually about minor plumbing issues.

“So far, everybody’s been understanding,” he said.

“I’m not going into a unit for somebody that came here from New York City to expose myself to the coronavirus. That’s why they came here, to get away from it. I don’t know if they were exposed or not.”

If they came back last week, that’s not enough time to determine whether they’ve been infected, he said.

“You know they’ve got to be here at least three weeks, as far as I’m concerned, before they prove they don’t,” he said.

“We’re being careful,” he said, noting no coronavirus cases reported in Franklin and Somerset counties as of Tuesday.

“Those of us who are professionals are working with social distancing,” he said.

Bob Luce, owner of Valley Gas and Oil in Kingfield, has a similar policy.

“What would normally be an empty home is occupied so we’re not going into those,” he said.

“There are definitely more license plates from Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the driveways than there normally would be up here,” he said of the ski homes.

“The only reason we’re going into a home that is occupied is for emergency work, like the heat’s out,” he said, noting he adopted the new policy the day after Sugarloaf closed.

Otherwise, he said he and his crews aren’t performing their usual annual maintenance.

“If they do, it’s only after reaching to the homeowner “to make sure they have not been there in the past week and are not coming up for another week,” he said. “Just to make sure that we give all the bacteria an opportunity to die.”

At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills urged residents in other states to stay put and not come to Maine to escape the coronavirus because it’s already here.

One bright note, Kamm said, is that the winter people who have fled their year-round homes appear to be hunkered down in their seasonal homes.

“It’s actually quite dead up here” he said. “People aren’t moving around a whole lot so, if they are here, hopefully at least they’re staying home.”

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