Ellen Yun loads Valentine’s Day gifts for her mom, sister and brother in-laws, nephew and her two children Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, outside a Chicago area grocery store. Yun said she had shopped for her husband earlier. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Ellen Yun loads Valentine’s Day gifts for her mom, sister and brother in-laws, nephew and her two children Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, outside a Chicago area grocery store. Yun said she had shopped for her husband earlier. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A bleak Valentine’s Day in 2021, lovers find hope in roses, vaccines

People searching for ways to celebrate love amid heartache and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic

The notecards poking from bouquets rushing out of a Chicago florist all carry similar messages: “looking forward to celebrating in person.”

“The notes aren’t sad,” said Kate Prince, a co-owner of Flora Chicago on the city’s North Side. “They’re hopeful.”

On this Valentine’s Day, North Americans are searching for ways to celebrate love amid so much heartache and isolation as the coronavirus pandemic stretches past its year anniversary. Some are clinging to hope, seen in the most vulnerable and frontline workers getting vaccinated, in loosening restrictions on restaurants in the hardest-hit places, in case numbers starting to wane.

Prince said florists are scrambling to keep up with the onslaught of orders from people trying to send their love from a safe distance.

“We are crushed,” she said.

Phones are ringing off the hook at restaurants in cities that have loosened restrictions on indoor dining just in time for Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year for many eateries that have been devastated by shutdowns designed to slow the spread of the virus.

In Chicago, the mayor loosened up indoor dining restrictions this week. After limiting restaurants to 25% capacity and 25 people per room, restaurants now must remain at 25% but they can serve as many as 50 per room.

The Darling restaurant is fully booked for this weekend and has been for weeks.

Sophie Huterstein, the restaurant’s owner, said COVID-19 has allowed the 2-year-old eatery to accomplish the impossible: make people happy to agree to a 4 p.m. reservation.

“People are being very flexible,” she said.

They are also this Valentine’s Day willing to do something else over a weekend where the high temperature will reach the teens and the low will plummet well below zero.

READ MORE: ‘Rapid, serial dating’ a no-go even as people expand their pandemic bubbles

“We have 14 greenhouses and people are coming out in full ski gear,” she said.

In New York City, the America Bar restaurant in the West Village is also fully booked for Valentine’s Day with a long waiting list and high demand for the newly allowed 25% capacity for indoor tables, said David Rabin, a partner in the eatery. More seats, along with the governor’s decision to allow closing times to move from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., has allowed him to give more shifts to his workers.

“For us, it’s a welcome gift,” he said. “It’s been great.”

T Bar NYC Steak and Lounge on the Upper East Side is also fully booked. Owner Tony Fortuna says some of his customers won’t dine indoors and he understands, but for those that have been clamouring to get back to restaurant dining, 25% is a good start. It gives people a glimmer of normalcy at a heartbreaking time.

“It gets everybody motivated, we see a little bit of hope,” he said. “It’s all about perception: you see people going out and moving around it makes everybody feel in a different mood.”

In Portland, a couple married 55 years has special Valentine’s Day plans.

Gil and Mercy Galicia have barely left their home in almost a year since lockdowns began, said their daughter, Cris Charbonneau. They had seen their close-knit family, three children and six grandchildren spread across the country.

Like many seniors, the year has been especially hard on them. They immigrated from the Philippines in the 1960s and have lived in their home on a half-acre plot for more than 40 years.

Mercy, 80, is a cancer survivor and has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Gil, 88, used to go on daily walks at the mall to stay active, but he hasn’t for a year. He is fearful that the isolation has set them back, and he doesn’t know how much longer they can manage living on their own.

RELATED: ‘You cohabitate my heart’: New Valentine’s Day cards reflect unique times

“We’re losing years, COVID has stolen this time that’s so precious,” Charbonneau said.

They don’t have a computer. When the vaccine became available, Gil called everywhere and couldn’t get through. Charbonneau was on a video call with them Thursday and saw a tweet from a local news station that the grocery store near their home had opened appointments online.

She was scrambling to get two appointments. She wasn’t paying attention to the date. She told them she’d booked them for Sunday, Feb. 14.

“That’s Valentine’s Day!” her father exclaimed and smiled at his wife.

“What a great way to celebrate my love for you.”

They hung up. Their daughter wept.

“That’s what we needed,” she said, “some hope.”

Holidays

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

This 2018 photo provided by Cris Charbonneau shows Gil and Mercy Galicia in Beaverton, Ore. The couple have barely left their home since coronavirus lockdowns began, said their daughter, Cris Charbonneau. They had not been able to see their large, close-knit family, three children and six grandchildren spread across the country. Like many seniors, the year has been especially hard on them. (Cris Charbonneau via AP)

This 2018 photo provided by Cris Charbonneau shows Gil and Mercy Galicia in Beaverton, Ore. The couple have barely left their home since coronavirus lockdowns began, said their daughter, Cris Charbonneau. They had not been able to see their large, close-knit family, three children and six grandchildren spread across the country. Like many seniors, the year has been especially hard on them. (Cris Charbonneau via AP)

Just Posted

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Home is where you know your neighbours

My mom has lived at that address for 43 years.

A rockfall closed Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
UPDATED: Malahat reopens following rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

In years past in-person ceremonies have been held for International Women’s Day. This year the observance is going online on Monday, March 8, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (file photo)
Virtual ceremony for Women’s Day in Cowichan on Monday

Audrey George, manager of the Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum assisted living facility, will be keynote speaker.

North Cowichan councillor Rob Douglas is advocating for a pilot project that would see the forest industry on Vancouver Island and the coast managed regionally. (File photo)
N. Cowichan councillor continues push for regional management of forestry

North Cowichan councillor wants pilot project established

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Most Read