Love in the time of COVID-19: how New Yorkers are celebrating Valentine's Day during social distancing | amNewYork

Love in the time of COVID-19: how New Yorkers are celebrating Valentine’s Day during social distancing

Mo Ogrodnik and JoAnn Moran hold up paper hearts on Union Square.
Photo by Dean Moses

Love is in the air, but unfortunately, so is COVID-19.

On Valentine’s Day New York usually serves as one gigantic convention center in which hundreds of people can be seen holding hands, hugging, kissing, and brandishing flowers and balloons. However, this year the romantic holiday also marks a grim milestone: the first Valentine’s Day of the pandemic. Due to this unfortunate fact, the city streets are exhibiting a lot less bouquets and drastically less affection due to social distancing. Still, some Manhattanites are celebrating, albeit in a very different way.

Steven hopped out of his car to quickly purchase an assortment of flowers from a curbside vendor for his girlfriend, a mere pit stop before heading home and preparing dinner himself. Usually, he takes his partner out for a romantic, one-on-one meal at a restaurant.

“It’s a wash out. I am not eating inside yet—maybe next year. But not yet,” Steven said.

Steven calls Valentine’s Day 2021 “A wash out.” Photo by Dean Moses

Although NYC restaurants have officially opened back up for indoor dining at 25% capacity, the fear of contracting the virus is overshadowing the majority of romantic overtures. Oliva Cadwell Surprised Laura Kok with a rose and some chocolate on Union Square. This expression of affection is enough for the pair, the risks of spreading COVID-19 is not worth one night of enjoyment out on the town.

“We are just going to get coffee and that is going to be the whole day. I live with an 87-year-old roommate, so I am not going indoors in any dining establishment and I haven’t been through the whole pandemic. I am not going to start until we are vaccinated,” Cadwell said.  

Oliva Cadwell Surprised Laura Kok with a rose and some chocolate. Photo by Dean Moses

Still the inability to spend the day akin to years prior will not prevent them from observing the occasion.

“Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love. Period. It doesn’t have to be any particular type of love. It’s just about love and I love Laura,” Cadwell said before Kok jumped in. “I was feeling needy. I forgot today was Valentine’s Day and she has been my person throughout the pandemic. She is the one person in my bubble who I will see. It’s lovely,” Kok explained.

While some are showcasing their love for an individual, others are honoring institutions that they look to for guidance. Stivenson Joseph paid for a bouquet of flowers from a local vendor but when asked who they were for he simply replied, “This is for the church.”

Oliva Cadwell and Laura Kok hug after gift giving. Photo by Dean Moses

“I am going to leave it for them. I do that because I feel happy and I am blessed,” Joseph said.

Although COVID-19 has not affected him personally, he acknowledges that he is constantly at risk through work. He says he feels affected through the pain of others around him. Still, he attempts to look at the world through a positive lens, which is why he is attempting to spread that positivity by leaving flowers at Immaculate Concepcion Church on 1st avenue and 14th street.

Amidst all the New Yorkers running hither and thither in pursuit of love amidst the continued pandemic, there are others who are hoping this small boom can help aid them during this particularly difficult business year.

Stivenson Joseph paid for a bouquet of flowers for a local church. Photo by Dean Moses

amNew York Metro caught Amira, a florist from Florals of Radiance whilst delivering some flowers. Despite the fact she won’t be reveling in the day herself, she says there is plenty of time for that in the future.

“I think every day is love day. I am putting all energy into being open to receiving and giving everything, I can to myself and to others when the opportunity presents itself. So, just living fully,” Amira said. 

Amira, a florist from Florals of Radiance spent the day delivering flowers. Photo by Dean Moses


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