Teresa Zhan, a pharmacist in Manhattan's Chinatown, had not seen protective face masks sell out in her 10 years as an employee until this week, when China's coronavirus arrived in the United States just days before Lunar New Year celebrations.
More than a dozen pharmacies in the tiny district had run out of face masks or only had a few left on Friday. Pharmacists said hundreds of locals had rushed to buy masks for protection from the newly discovered coronavirus that has killed 26 people in China and infected at least 800 others, including a case in Chicago and another near Seattle.
"Everybody's been coming in the morning and saying, do you have face masks? Do you have face masks?" Zhan said.
During a typical flu season, customers will purchase one or two surgical masks at a time to protect themselves from the virus, Zhan said.
"Now they're like, give me the whole box," she said.