Neighborhoods across Massachusetts — from Pittsfield to Provincetown — are eerily silent these days as neighbors hunker down in a kind of voluntary quarantine to hide from the coronavirus.

On my own block, Maple Avenue in Cambridge, neighbors know each other. We often greet with hugs or handshakes. Or at least — we used to. Now, it’s a shout across the street. It is just one of the ways the lives of all of us on the block have changed.

My neighbor Jack Gray, a computer programmer who recently turned 70, says the days are different from the beginning.

"We incrementally are adding things to decrease the likelihood that we are spreading it to ourselves or others," he says. "I started to disinfect the bathroom every day after I take a shower. I just wipe all the surfaces and the touch points, even though I'm pretty sure it's not got any virus on it right now. I started today to do the kitchen. "

And that is definitely out of the normal says Jack’s wife, Lisa Thurau, standing on the front porch of their home. She says the biggest change is not being able to jump into the car and head to Vermont to visit her college-age daughter, or their own parents.

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Lisa Thurau and her husband Jack Gray in front of their home on Maple Avenue. "We incrementally are adding things to decrease the likelihood that we are spreading it to ourselves or others, " said Gray, including wiping all surfaces and touch points in their condo.
Phillip Martin, WGBH News

"Jack's mother has tested positive... and we can't go visit her. "

People are mostly not going anywhere because public health experts have advised all of us to stay put to get ahead of this fast encroaching disease.

My next door neighbor, Katie Ferrante, a dentist, had only recently returned to the job after maternity leave and is now back at home.

"I feel like the transition back to home is very odd mentally at this time because you've just finally gotten into the routine of going back to work and how things work with the baby," she said. "And now you come back to a little bit of a slower pace — and yet also a faster paced 'round-the-clock child care situation. So it's just readjusting a little bit to that."

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Maple Avenue resident, Katie Ferrante, with her dog Maggie. Ferrante and her husband Chris concluded parental leave two months ago but are now home until the coronavirus crisis eases. Ferrante, a dentist, says she misses her patients, but says the involuntary time off "also makes it little easier to give full attention to the baby," who was sleeping when this photo was taken.
Phillip Martin, WGBH News

The neighborhood one sunny day this week was alive with the sounds of outdoor activity, walking, running, biking. It would seem perfect for kids out of school, but 11-year-old Satchel, a 5th grader, was not feeling it.

"Because you don't get to see your friends," he said.

Sitting on the stoop of his porch patting his dog, Satchel says that’s not all that he’s missing.

"I like seeing just the teachers I like. I like writing. I like all the resources they have there. They gave everyone computers to take home and we're getting work through Google Classroom and the high schoolers — my sisters — are doing Zoom for their classes."

Satchel, a 5th grader, on Maple Avenue
Phillip Martin, WGBH News

That night I checked up on Satchel’s siblings, Paloma and Cocoa. Like Satchel, they are student athletes — and now student athletes cooped up at home. Their mother Emily, a psychologist, greets me at the door.

There is a bit of a racket inside: Paloma on a rowing machine, Cocoa on a stationary bike, Satchel in the kitchen and the requisite teenage music in the background. Emily says that her household in the absence of school has been turned into a combination classroom and gymnasium.

"They each have a schedule they put together, like an outline of a day for themselves, each which includes some academic time, some outside time, some exercise time, some interacting time with people over, you know, Facetime or Internet, some of their friends and or family," Emily said. "Our house looks kind of like a gym with beds right now. They seem to be keeping themselves busy. But this is only day three."

Further up the street, I found Risa Mednick carrying a large box that she’s preparing to deliver to someone who needs it.

"My next door neighbors left town for New Zealand where their family lives and they couldn't cancel their preordered Freshly delivery," she explained. "I'm on the listserv with the Cambridge Neighbors in Need. And so, I looked up who needs food? And I just texted a woman in North Cambridge and I'm going to bring this to her."

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Maple Avenue resident, Risa Mednick, carrying a huge box that she’s preparing to deliver to someone who needs it.
Phillip Martin, WGBH News

Everyone on the block talks about the fear the pandemic has brought.

For 11-year-old Satchel, "it's kind of scary because you can't really go outside unless it's like Whole Foods or something."

For adults, there are fears of government failure and financial ruin, even for some in this comfortable neighborhood, says attorney Lisa Thurau.

"There's just kind of a low level of dread and fear," she said. "We've just seen first and foremost how much we need a centralized government response to the needs of people, especially the most vulnerable people who are on hourly wages, not to mention my own little nonprofit, which will probably go under."

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Julie Wilson, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a Maple Avenue resident said the effects of the coronavirus have been crushing but feels optimistic "in some dimensions that I've watched people come together."
Phillip Martin, WGBH News

But Julie Wilson, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School , walking along Maple Avenue, says this neighborhood, and the country, in the long run will be all right.

"I'm feeling optimistic in some dimensions that I've watched people come together," she said. "I've watched people create communities online. I've watched people reach out to one another who were too busy before to reach out. And that part is really good."

Maple Avenue is only one block long. Most of my neighbors here wake up listening to NPR and reading on-line and actual newspapers. And the earth shattering news of late has not transformed this street — hopefully — in any permanent way. But it has made its residents keenly aware that this neighborhood is connected to every other neighborhood in Boston and every dot on the world map. All of them are connected by a disease nobody had heard of two months ago.