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For Long Islanders, a fight to feel normal, and safe, during COVID-19 surge

Newsday asked Long Islanders their thoughts on the

Newsday asked Long Islanders their thoughts on the rising number of COVID-19 cases on the Island. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Surging COVID-19 infection rates prompted college student Alex DaSilva to hunker down at his Islip home.

"I’ve been staying inside a lot more, especially as the rates go up," said the senior at the University of Massachusetts, who is studying math and sports management online.

"I just kind of assume it’s the right thing to do," DaSilva said.

Coronavirus infection rates on Tuesday reached 6.2% in Suffolk and 4.8% in Nassau. While experts warn the region is being hit with a surge in new cases, DaSilva and other Long Islanders interviewed by Newsday all described having pandemic fatigue but diverged on whether the spiking COVID-19 rates will alter their behavior in public.

Many said they have heeded advice from experts by remaining vigilant about social distancing, wearing masks and frequently washing their hands. Even so, they worry the coming winter months could increase the lethal effects of the coronavirus.

Victoria Danay, 62, of Wantagh, said that despite Long Island's previous success at tamping down the virus, the current surge is "a reminder for us to continue doing what we’ve been doing."

In her opinion, said Danay, a teaching assistant at an elementary school, pandemic fatigue has caused some to become lax on taking appropriate safety measures.

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"People go out and cheer for the first responders, the doctors, the nurses, and then now you’re putting them back … where hospitals are overwhelmed," Danay said. "So what’s the point, of ‘rah, rah, rah' and then you go back [and] do what you selfishly want to do?"

Gary Krasinski, 56, of Westbury, admitted being skeptical of the dangers posed by the virus.

"I’m definitely going to live my life the way it is," he said. "I don’t always believe what I hear and what I read. I’m not sure who is telling the truth."

He still takes precautions, but as much as possible, on his own terms.

Krasinski spoke while wearing a bandanna around his neck, which, the truck driver for a sign company added, he pulls over his mouth and nose when entering a business.

"A mask, wrapped around my ear, it’s a pain the neck," Krasinski said.

Anyone in need of a firsthand account of what it's like to contract the coronavirus and then recover, would do well to speak with Ricardo Marin, 35, of Uniondale. Marin, a manager and server at a Hempstead Colombian restaurant, said he became infected in March and experienced mild symptoms. Although months later, his sense of smell is still not right, Marin said.

Scents from certain lotions and perfumes make him nauseous. But then again, he said, it could be worse.

"I would be worried if I had some other type of health issues. My lungs are fine. I run," Marin said.

Having had COVID-19 doesn’t make him feel safer although he's relieved he overcame the disease.

Kevin Mullahy, 63, of North Babylon, said he also contracted the virus in the spring. In fact, he said, his family of five living under one roof all contracted COVID-19.

"I had a fever for 13 days," he said, adding that the surge has spurred him to use more caution in public.

His wife, Cathy, 62, said the couple’s adult son works as a custodian at a Long Island hospital where the spike in virus cases can be witnessed up close.

"He is in and out of the COVID room," she said. "The numbers are going up. The hospitals are getting filled up again. It’s not over yet."

Construction worker Danny Gonzalez, 52, of Bethpage, said he wears a mask, gloves and remains confident health officials are making correct decisions to keep Long Islanders safe. The spike in infections won't change his daily routine. He's also confident the surge won't pack as strong a punch as when the pandemic hit in the spring.

"We are much more prepared now," Gonzalez said. "We are known as a tough state. … New Yorkers are doing what has to get done."

Increased infections have led Kesherica Haynesworth, 26, to stay home more, she said. Some "rebellious" types continue to behave like "everything is normal," the nursing home worker from Hempstead said.

"I just hope people pay attention to the increase and they learn their lesson," she said. "You have to follow the rules."

Long Island's uptick is not lost on Mitchell Weingarten, 70, of Westbury. The retired engineer said he takes appropriate safety measures to protect himself and others.

He doesn't have much patience for virus skeptics.

"Politicizing science is really what offends me the most," he said. "The people that don’t want to wear a mask, or don’t want to take the vaccine — I just don’t understand it."

COVID-19 has stolen pleasures like the Broadway shows he and his wife relished and made life feel unchanged from one day to the next.

"Every day is like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ " Weingarten said, referring to the Bill Murray comedy where a man repeats the same day over and over again.

"Tomorrow," he said, "is going to be like today."

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