Panic buying has started to hit New York as shelves in major supermarkets are being emptied amid fears of the spreading coronavirus.
New York had its first confirmed case of the virus on Sunday as the number of cases nationwide reached at least 77 with two patient deaths.
Two coronavirus-related deaths were confirmed in Kirkland, Washington state, as a resident at the Life Care Center nursing home and a patient at the EvergreenHealth hospital.
The spread of the disease, which began in China and has seen more than 89,000 cases worldwide and over 3,000 fatalities, has caused panic-buying in areas worst-hit by the outbreak.
Over the weekend videos emerged on social media of shoppers rushing to stock up on toilet paper, bottled water, disinfectant wipes and sanitizer at a Costco in Brooklyn, New York.
People were also seen scrambling to get hold of food at a Chinese supermarket in Flushing, Queens, on Sunday.
In one social media video shoppers were seen stocking up on food in Flushing, Queens, on Sunday
Supermarket shelves are starting to be emptied as people prepare for the spread of coronavirus in New York. Pictured are shoppers on Sunday
Customers queuing outside a Costco in Brooklyn, waiting to get inside due to the amount of people already in the store on Saturday
Pictures of empty shelves at grocery stores elsewhere in New York also emerged over Saturday and Sunday.
Elsewhere in the US, such as California, Hawaii and Minnesota have also seen a run on essential items.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the first coronavirus patient in New York with reports a woman is currently in Manhattan and has isolated herself at home.
A statement from the Cuomo’s office revealed the patient, an unidentified woman in her late 30s, contracted COVID-19 while traveling in Iran.
At least 77 patients in the US have now been confirmed to have coronavirus, after one was reported in Rhode Island and a fifth ‘unknown’ origin case was found in Chicago on Sunday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo admitted that the deadly virus’ entrance into New York’s population of 19 million was a ‘matter of when, not if.’
On Saturday America’s top doctor begged people to stop panic-buying face masks, fearing a shortage could cause an even bigger threat if medical facilities could not access the product.
Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams tweeted: ‘Seriously people – STOP Buying MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!’
Adams also tweeted: ‘The best way to protect yourself and your community is with everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness.
Shoppers were seen in a Twitter video panic-buying at a Chinese supermarket in Flushing, Queens on Sunday
Shoppers rushed to stock-up on essential items at supermarkets across the US. Pictured are customers in New York on Sunday
Empty shelves were seen at supermarkets in New York as fear of the spread of coronavirus gripped the city
Panic buying in the United States does not yet resembles what Italy witnessed in recent days – where supermarket shelves were stripped bare and videos posted on social media showed consumers coming to blows over bags of pasta.
But there is a growing sense of urgency for people to stock up on staples and to prepare for lengthy home quarantines.
‘I’m buying some flu therapy and pain killers – If I wait until next week there may be nothing left,’ said Dean McKnight, a engineer in Austin, Texas, as he motioned to shelves at the HEB supermarket that were empty of several over-the-counter medications, primarily flu treatment for children.
McKnight worked in Hong Kong and China during the SARS outbreak and knows first-hand the stresses that snowballing fears of a pandemic can cause, but said he is not panicked.
He added: ‘We got an extra month’s worth of inhalers for my wife, but we’re not stocking up on medications or food as if we expect to need to secure several months of supplies right now.’
Panic purchasing has been seen of masks and other personal protective gear. But there is also a looming threat to retail across the board, analysts said.
Several major retailers – including Walmart and Target – stand to see supply chains badly hit by the coronavirus and that could result in some empty store shelves starting in April, Ed Kelly, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in a research note this month.
Empty shelves at a grocery store in New York. Shoppers have been stock-piling essential items amid fears of the spreading virus
Over the weekend pictures of empty shelves at grocery stores in New York emerged
Kelly wrote: ‘We believe the time to start worrying about the supply chain risk of 2019-nCoV is here.
‘It’s worth noting that big box players like Target and Walmart could be the first to experience out of stock issues.’
That is because those stores operate on a just-in-time inventory model, and are highly dependent on China, where supply chains have been badly disrupted.
Stockpiling in states like Hawaii and Minnesota was spurred by messages from state health departments urging residents to buy supplies of non-perishable foods, prescription medications and sanitary supplies.
The advice contradicted the message from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC Director Robert Redfield on Thursday told a US congressional hearing that there was no need for healthy Americans to stock up on any supplies.
Robyn Gershon, a clinical professor of epidemiology at New York University, said: ‘We should have one unified message. When there’s an absence of a good, strong and reassuring official voice, people will get more upset and start doing this magical thinking.’
On Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii, retired telecommunications worker Duane Tanouye, 62, waited in line outside a Costco with more than 200 other people.
‘Nobody’s really panicking, but there’s a lot more people than normal,’ Tanouye said by phone.
Stores in Hawaii had begun limiting how much consumers could buy of some products, such as toilet paper, he said.