By Ryan J. Ferguson
On her way into the CVS Pharmacy in East Islip, Dianne Schroff pulled up her floral-patterned scarf to cover her face. Grabbing a pair of gloves from her tote bag, she put them on to pick out a Mother’s Day card.
At the checkout counter, she looked at the cashier and smiled, “I’ll be spraying Lysol on it,” she said.
COVID-19 has already claimed more than 1,100 victims in Suffolk County and has infected more than 33,000 in the county alone as of April 29, Mother’s Day will be difficult to celebrate this year.
“I will not be able to be with my family for a nice family dinner this Mother’s Day,” Schroff, who lives in Islip Terrace, said. “I have a daughter who is pregnant, and my mom is 88 years-old and has had open heart surgery in the past, so they are both at risk. It is very hard to not be able to hug and kiss those you love, it’s an awkward, cold feeling.”
Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on the coronavirus . The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
It’s also recommended to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
One in six New Yorkers is 65 and above, according to AARP, that’s 16 percent of all New Yorker’s. There are now more New Yorkers ages 65 and older statewide than there are children under the age of 13.
In the card aisle of CVS, another shopper, Donna Aulet, glances through the slim selection of remaining birthday cards. With non-essential businesses closed in New York, pharmacies are one of the few places open to shop.
“This Mother’s Day is the first time ever, in 34 years, that I won’t get to be with my kids and now my 20-month-old granddaughter,” Aulet, who lives in Oakdale, said. “Two days later is my son’s birthday. Also, this is the first time I’m missing that special day in 32 years. It means everything to me to be with them, now all I can do is send a birthday card.”
COVID-19 is likely to devastate some local businesses in Suffolk County as Mother’s Day is the most profitable day of the year for restaurants. In 2017, The National Restaurant Association found that nearly two in five American adults planned to dine out on Mother’s Day, and 21 million would order restaurant takeout or delivery.
The statistics from The National Restaurant Association have remained consistent over time, keeping Mother’s Day as the most popular holiday on which to dine out, followed by Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day.
In Oakdale, popular waterfront restaurant Snapper Inn has closed amid coronavirus concerns. Listed on the restaurant’s website is a statement by the owner, Richard Remmer.
“In light of the current emergency and after reviewing all of the health directives we have decided to close and have canceled takeout service until further notice,” the notice reads. “We apologize if this causes inconvenience and look forward to resuming service at the earliest opportunity which we hope will be no later than May first.”
On April 16, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the state’s stay-home order, as well as closures for restaurant and gathering places. During his daily briefing in Albany, Cuomo warned that any change in behavior could reignite the spread of coronavirus. He said he would reevaluate as May 15 approaches, but experts will ultimately inform the end date.
“What happens after then, I don’t know,” Cuomo said. “We will see, depending on what the data shows.”
With video chat platforms such as Skype, Facetime and Zoom, some Mother’s Day plans have moved online. Residents outside of Suffolk County are also taking precautions.
“Since my husband and I are over 60 years-old and each of our three daughters live in their own homes, they want to be respectful and stay home so they don’t potentially expose us to COVID-19,” Elizabeth Madero, who lives in West Sayville, said. “This certainly will be a very different Mother’s Day; however, we will definitely be together for our Zoom gathering to share laughs, stories and recipes.”
In Bayport, the Daisy Garden Corporation, a nursery, stands as one of the few local essential businesses permitted to continue operation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are growing as usual, with hopes that the virus is under control sooner than later,” Colleen Flemming, Manager of the Daisy Garden Corporation, said. “We have been offering local deliveries and curbside pick-ups for customers that are more comfortable maintaining social distancing. Flowers are a good, healthy form of happiness, let’s put some smiles on our faces.”
Parked at the front gates of the Daisy Garden Corporation is Cynthia Carbonari. While waiting for her curbside pick-up order of pansies for her mother, she pops the trunk of her SUV. Wearing a pair of plaid gardening gloves, a garden associate loads the flowers into the trunk.
“My mom says it’ll be an isolated feeling without family around this Mother’s Day, like Easter was,” Carbonari, who lives in Sayville, said. “She said it didn’t feel like Easter but just another day, what will Mother’s Day be like this year?”