East Islip volunteer firefighters staged a parade of fire trucks and chief's vehicles, stopping at Momentum at South Bay Rehabilitation and Nursing to honor the health care heroes of the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Newsday / Shelby Knowles

A parade of East Islip Fire Department fire trucks were driven down East Main Street on Saturday with sirens blaring and horns honking.

No, not for an emergency. But for another urgent matter: saying “thank you” to the staff at Momentum at South Bay Rehabilitation and Nursing.

The volunteer firefighters staged the parade of eight fire trucks and two chief's vehicles, which stopped in front of the facility, to honor the front-line health care heroes of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"If what we did brought five minutes of happiness to the health care workers, it was worth it," said East Islip Fire Department Chief Andy Oliveri said.

In recent days, there has been a stream of public displays of support and gratitude for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic at hospitals and nursing homes.

Community members have organized car parades, posted signs to cheer on the medical workers and donated food to facilities for the staff as they work long hours.

"We just wanted to show our support and let them know that someone cares about the job they're doing," especially because the nursing home staff are protecting seniors, a vulnerable population to the virus, Oliveri said.

In mid-March, the nursing home and rehabilitation center restricted visitation until further notice to keep the residents protected, said Barbara Silhan, the facility’s community liaison.

Nurses and aides have been following a strict protocol for weeks when entering and leaving the building, which involves filling out a form that states they are in good health and getting their temperature taken, Silhan said.

“You’re working under all these new rules to keep everyone safe and protected, and you’re putting in longer hours — it leaves you feeling very tired,” Silhan said.

The nursing facility got a visit earlier in the week from community members holding balloons and signs that read “thank you,” she said.

The end of the week came with the loud showing of support from the fire department, which made the staff “feel proud that we’re recognized for putting ourselves on the front line,” Silhan said.

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