World Journal

Chinese and Korean supermarkets had adequate supplies. (World Journal)

Read the original story in Chinese at World Journal
Translated and condensed by Rong Xiaoqing

As the coronavirus spreads across the country, both New York State and the city have declared states of emergency, prompting many residents to stock up on supplies and leaving some shop shelves bare.

While some mainstream retail chain stores have run out of items like toilet paper, medicines, water, rice and canned foods, many supermarkets run by Chinese and Korean immigrants have adequate supply. At these stores, things look no different from ordinary times, with the number of customers the same. Many Chinese shoppers said that while non-Chinese New Yorkers were slow in their reaction to the pandemic, many Chinese New Yorkers prepared early.    

Staff at a Costco in Brooklyn said in recent days, the line of customers with shopping carts is long before the store even opens. Items like bottled water, toilet paper and kitchen towels are the first to sell out, but canned food, frozen vegetables and meat are also in short supply.

Chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have the same experience. At some stores, buying a bag of bagels has become mission impossible.

Along Manhattan’s East Broadway, many shops are closed to prevent the virus from spreading, and the street is quieter. Still, many people continue to patronize the supermarkets. Mr. Chen, a Chinatown resident who manages one such market, said that while the fewer people are out in the street, it’s still hard to find a parking spot nearby because many people drive to Chinatown to shop. But people are buying rationally, not panic-shopping, he said.

Mr. Chen said that some non-Chinese New Yorkers were slow in their reactions to the pandemic, with many who didn’t until the numbers of confirmed cases increased.  “They seemed to not believe it until it’s too late,” he said. 

Mr. Chen said he didn’t like to hear some people criticizing Chinese residents for overreacting by taking preparations. “They purchase more than normal so that they can stay at home and not add unnecessary pressure to the public,” said Chen. “It is not like they are hoarding for their own survival in the apocalyptic time.”

Chen and his wife have been running the store in East Broadway for more than 10 years. He said all items at the store have adequate supply, with nothing sold out or in shortage. He doesn’t plan to raise prices. 

This is a common scene shared by many supermarkets in Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn on March 14. Most of the shelves were loaded, with no usual spike of customers.