By Matt Cataruzolo
As he laces up his black Nike running shoes, Joseph Mattern looks ahead to the long, empty road. “At least I can still do this,” Mattern, a Bayshore native, said. Despite hoping that the Coronavirus pandemic doesn’t last long enough to affect the Northwell Health Bayshore 5k run in September, an event he looks forward to, it is hard to remain optimistic.
With the pandemic causing widespread change throughout the state of New York, he says he can use a good run. Especially if it’s for a cause.
“I understand people social distancing and things like that. I just think it is a bit exaggerated to shut down all businesses and cancel charity events,” Mattern said.
Mattern, who is 23 years old, has been bartending in East Islip since June of 2018, but is now out of a job until his restaurant, Maxwell’s, reopens.
Since New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on March 7th, new policies are being implemented almost on a daily basis. With at least 1,941 COVID-19 deaths in the state thus far, it accounts for roughly 40% of the confirmed cases in the U.S. Since then, all 62 counties in New York State have also declared the state of emergency. And with Cuomo issuing a stay-at-home order on March 20th, large gatherings and events have either been postponed or cancelled.
“It definitely isn’t the ideal situation, but I do understand why things are the way that they are,” Paige Johnston, a Bohemia native and charity participant of everything from food drives to silent auctions, said. “Donating to different charities over the years has been important to me, and it’s unfortunate that events have to be cancelled, but at least events down the road can still hopefully happen,” Johnston said.
The Hartigan Irish 4 Run Mile, a marathon charity event that was supposed to take place this past Saturday the 28th, is just another one in a long line of cancelled charity events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Proceeds from this run are used to fund grants that provide critical health and human services to more than twenty charities in the Town of Huntington, but Bea Hartigan, one of the organizers, said that there is still hope for the future.
“I think it is probably the best and clearest leadership that we would want,” Hartigan, who is also a contributing member of the Board of Directors for the Townwide Fund of Huntington, said. “Being a long-time chair of some of the runs that we hold, I still think there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can still host our future runs comfortably,” she said.
Despite the circumstances, remaining optimistic is very important in order to push through to better days ahead. “It’s very hectic, but our job is to help everyone in need, especially in times like this,” Alice Marie Rorke, Executive Director of the Townwide Fund of Huntington, said.
“There are so many people out there with such great need, and in dire times people want to help, that’s why I believe that people are built to help one another,” Rorke said. “All the health care professionals on the frontlines of this are the ones who we should all be grateful for,” Rorke said.
There are now 75,795 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York State, half of the total cases in the United States. According to the New York Times, President Trump said that social distancing guidelines will be extended until April 30th. Until the virus subsides, charity events that involve gatherings of people are going to have to be put on hold.