Finding silver linings in a quarantine

Gas prices below $3.00 per gallon at the Arco station on Lyons Avenue on April 16, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

As the Santa Clarita Valley goes into week seven of the “Safer at Home” directive amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s only logical that cabin fever is also widespread.

While not many are particularly happy about being stuck at home, there are numerous benefits.

For Newhall resident Quinten Samuels, who was quite used to living a hectic lifestyle, the past month has given him time to stop and smell the roses, he said.

“In a world where we’re always, ‘Go, go, go,’ this is a blessing in disguise,” Samuels said. “Having time to just sit with my thoughts has been doing wonders for my mental health. It’s something I didn’t even know I needed.”

Here are some of the other unsung benefits to staying at home:

More time to spend with family. Dan Watson/The Signal

Increased family time

For starters, many families have been given newfound time to bond with their loved ones.

“I’ve got five kids, all ranging in ages from 4 to 20,” Saugus resident Jenny Staples said. “My oldest is usually away at college and my youngest is only now old enough to really start participating in family activities — so this is the first time other than a holiday or birthday that we’ve all been together.”

Time for the forgotten

Now that we’ve got all this free time, it gives us newfound time to pursue passions that we otherwise would be too busy for — like dusting off that book, taking up a new hobby or learning how to cook.

It also gives us more time to tackle that to do list that’s been only growing longer, never shorter.

Gas prices below $3.00 per gallon at the Pilot station in Castaic on April 16, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Low gas prices

While the stay-at-home order means that many are driving much less than they normally would, they can now do so at a much cheaper price, as gas prices have continued to drop since the start of the outbreak.

Unleaded gas prices have dropped below the $3 mark at most of SCV’s gas stations, with prices ranging from $2.39 to $2.99 on Tuesday, while nationwide, gas prices are headed to lows last seen during the Great Recession, according to Gas Buddy.

In Los Angeles County, the average gas price has dropped to $2.85, down nearly 40 cents from this time last month and $1.18 from a year ago — the first time it’s dropped below $3 since August 2017.

Better air quality due to light traffic on the Golden State 5 Freeway near Calgrove Boulevard in Newhall on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Less traffic

Though gas prices are low, there’s not many places to drive, meaning that there’s also less cars on the road, and therefore, less traffic, a plus for essential workers still making their normal commutes.

Castaic resident and registered nurse Melissa Antolin is used to commuting to work at West Hills Hospital each day.

“The thing is, because everybody’s been at home, the traffic has been great,” she said. “Usually my commute would be anywhere between 50 minutes to an hour to get down to the valley, but because everybody’s been home my commute is more like 35 to 40 minutes.”

Great air quality, looking east from The Plaza at Golden Valley in Canyon Country on Wednesday, April, 15, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Less air pollution

Less traffic on the road seems to have had a domino effect, according to Dr. Charanjit Saroa, a pulmonologist at Valencia Pulmonary Medical Group.

“The air quality is better because there is less exhaust, less smog and less cars on the road,” Saroa said in a previous Signal interview.

Though Saroa said he has not yet seen a study linking pollution/air quality, the air quality index shows that pollution rates in the SCV have improved since the stay-at-home order was put in place, as are also evident by the clear blue skies we’ve been seeing daily.

When combined with ammonia and moisture, two things prevalent in the air, nitrogen oxide creates harmful particulates that damage sensitive lung tissue.

The levels of nitrogen oxide have been steadily decreasing from the beginning of the year, according to recent data collected by the California Air Resources Board. This time last year, the highest levels of nitrogen oxide parts per million in April was 0.014, while this year it has decreased to 0.009.

This isn’t just true for the SCV, as waterways in Venice, Italy, have gone crystal clear for the first time in decades, while China has begun to see blue skies instead of smog since the start of the outbreak.

The blue of the wild lupine growing wild in a field in Santa Clarita match the blue skies and billowing over head as the ran stops on Tuesday evening, March 17, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Nature is back

While spring has sprung, wildlife everywhere has also seemed to be making a comeback during this pandemic.

Dolphins have been seen returning to beaches in multiple places all over the world, goats are taking over empty Welsh streets and wild animals have reclaimed national parks across the nation.

Even here in the SCV, coyotes have been spotted more frequently roaming and wildflowers have turned the hills green, yellow and purple.

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