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

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A shopper at a Chicago area store looks over Valentine's Day cards Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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, 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. But the death toll is still climbing toward a half-million dead in the United States and many remain shuttered in their homes.

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.