They were stocking up, switching dinners out for home cooking, and wondering what else they may soon have to go without: New Yorkers were adapting Saturday to life in the time of coronavirus.
The city recorded its first COVID-19 fatality, an 82-year-old woman, on Saturday amid a rapid climb in cases: 200 so far, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and more than 1,000 expected next week.
For those who had yet to join the national run on grocery stores, the sunny day was a perfect chance to load up on food, toilet paper and disinfectant — if they could still find it after three days of widespread panic buying.
Larry Grossman, manager at a Manhattan supermarket whose 85 employees are working overtime, said he had never seen anything like it in 40 years.
“I have been through Hurricane Sandy… through 9/11, I have never seen shopping like this,” he said, as he restocked the store’s empty shelves.
Nnenna Doyle and her husband Mark, two thirtysomethings who have been teleworking since Thursday, went shopping first thing for basics and “a lot of beer too.”
The Irish-born couple had been planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at a pub on Saturday evening.
But even though New York’s bars and restaurants remain open for now — unlike in harder-hit European cities — like many in the city they ultimately decided to shift the party to their home.
Of the 17 people they invited, nine declined, preferring to isolate themselves at home, Nnenna said.
She will try to “elbow tap” to greet her guests, she says, even though she is naturally “a hugger.”
– ‘We don’t know’ –
Patricia Jamele, 60, and her partner, James, took advantage of the sunny day to go for a stroll, but were in two minds on whether it was a good idea: “One of us is all for walking around places, and another one of us is all about avoiding,” Jamele said.
Jamele works as a housekeeper and has no option of teleworking.
“It’s very stressful because people don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s causing a lot of anxiety, and we don’t know whether it’s well placed or misplaced anxiety.”
At a farmer’s market at Union Square in Greenwich Village, business was brisk.
“We have already sold out of a bunch of stuff that usually we’re taking home with us,” said Paul, a livestock and poultry farmer from upstate New York, known in local foodie circles by his first name.
“People are staying home and cooking,” said the 50-year-old. “Obviously the open air market is probably the safest place to come out and buy food rather than going into a store.”
Though his farm is in a remote area, he said he has no fear about coming into town.
But he also believes that city authorities, who have so far kept public schools and the subway open, should shut everything down.
“I deal with it in animals… When you get one sick one, if you don’t get it immediately isolated, that’s it, it spreads like wildfire.”
Image: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / David Dee Delgado People carry groceries in New York City while wearing face masks and gloves on March 14