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A pandemic’s bleak milestone

Valley Streamers reflect on 12 long months of Covid-19

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March 1, 2020, marked the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York. As fears of the virus mounted, Valley Stream resident Thomas Dowling, 41, recalled, he was riddled with fear and anxiety about what it could mean for his future.

He worried about everything from food shortages and rising crime to the toll on his health and emotional well-being. He even feared having to quit his job just to stay safe. Dowling said he often lost sleep.

But a year later, as he reflected on his initial worries, most of his fears about the pandemic did not become reality for him. Instead, he and other Valley Streamers learned to adapt to their altered lives, and to cope.

“Trees, plants, nature, fresh air and sunlight are all very calming to me, and going to Hendrickson Park to watch the ducks move across the lake in a tranquil way reduces my anxiety and makes me feel more like myself during this pandemic,” Dowling said. “Over the past year of this pandemic, I’ve learned that when I’m in my house, if I keep my shades open to make sure light comes in the house, my anxiety goes down.”

Dowling, who has seen some of his friends and extended family members die of complications from Covid-19 in the past year, said he was angry that the pandemic had dragged on as long as it had, but noted that he had formed closer bonds with his wife and children because he had spent more time at home with them than before. 

“The pandemic has changed my perspective, because now I see life as even more delicate, because in an instant someone could be gone,” he said. “I value my relationships even more now, and I’m enjoying spending more time with my family.”

Like many, Valley Streamer Sabrina Carreras, 42, has had to work from home in her job as director of diversity and inclusion for a law firm in Manhattan. As a result, she has had to find new ways to keep positive while working. Over time, she said she has also slowly developed daily self-care routines that she has made mandatory for herself. Among them is continuing to dress up in work attire each day.

“It allows me to keep the sense of normalcy that I have control over,” Carreras said. “Self-care is not something that I negotiate on, and I always make sure that I keep my self-care routine by making time for myself to benefit my mental and psychological well-being.” 

Carreras also starts each day by reading from the Bible, which she said gives her peaceful thoughts. When she isn’t working from home, she keeps herself busy with small interior design projects around her house. 

Another part of her routine is making more time to exercise, and in the past year, she said, she has started eating healthier foods, while also doing good deeds for others.

“I have made a habit of checking on people that don’t have a way to get groceries or essential items, and when I go out to shop, I pick up items for them,” Carreras said. “I also spend a lot more time checking up on my friends and family to make sure they’re OK, because this reduces the worries that I have about their well-being. This is a form of self-care for me, because it actually keeps my mental state afloat to know that my loved ones are OK.”  

Valley Streamer Diego Yangali, 28, who works in digital music marketing, has also been working from home. Yangali said he once enjoyed close friendships with his co-workers, but the distance has made maintaining them difficult. Despite that, he said he has more friends now than before through social media. 

In the first four months of the pandemic, Yangali said, he realized he was using social media more often. Assuming he wasn’t alone in his increased screen time, he said he thought it would be a good idea to create a local community forum. 

On June 16, Yangali created the Facebook page “Voices of Valley Stream.” The page, which currently has 511 members, was created to reach people on a variety of social justice topics and inform Valley Stream residents about happenings while giving them a platform to cultivate new friendships.

For Yangali, the page has provided a valuable outlet. 

 “I’ve branched out, and I’ve met so many new people through my Facebook page, and whenever I think about the craziness of the pandemic and worries arise in me, I remind myself that I was able to create something good — a neighborly forum for people . . . People depend on me and that motivates me,” he said. “Once the pandemic is over and we go back to normalcy, the relationships and community bonds formed from my Facebook page will transform to real-life in-person connections, which I’m very excited to see happen.”