Coronavirus fear: New York City communities confront concerns

NEW YORK (WABC) -- While there have been no official confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York City, the Health Department reported that one person is being tested for possibly having the deadly virus.

Concern over the virus' spread is impacting New York's Asian communities.

CORONOVIRUS OUTBREAK: Complete information and updates here

It is not surprising to see people in the Flushing, Queens community wearing surgical masks this time of year.

But fear of the virus and news of quarantines that are being implemented elsewhere have increased this practice to new levels.

Community leaders are pleading with the public not to use the coronavirus as reason to stigmatize Chinese Americans here in New York.

"They want to use a mask to prevent getting illness from sick patients," said NYC Council Member Peter Koo.

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On Saturday, the Health Department reported that one person was being tested for possible coronavirus at Bellevue Hospital.

Nevertheless, many people here in Flushing have traveled recently for the Lunar New Year - and many of them aren't getting their news from reliable sources like the CDC.

So they've been trying to take extra precautions.

As a result, drug stores in the area have been selling out of surgical masks. Other stores have been rationing them to only two per customer.

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And there have been reports of price-gouging online, one box on Amazon going for an astronomical amount of money and vendors selling masks on the street.

"Everybody's in a frenzy," one told Eyewitness News.

Some residents here in Flushing agree.

"You should be cautious, but don't over-react," said Angela Hu.

Others say public spaces have been clearing out.

"I was just at the library this morning, and it's actually rather empty," said Jenny Li.

And some restaurants are reporting half their business lost during this normally bustling time of year.

The new travel restrictions announced Friday are only adding to concerns here in Queens and beyond, highlighting the importance of separating rumor from reality.

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