The Wall Street Journal - 16.03.2020

(Ben Green) #1

A10B| Monday, March 16, 2020 ** THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

so abundant. We’re fighting
each other for the next fare.”
Bhairavi Desai, executive di-
rector of the New York Taxi
Workers Alliance, said she is

“I think one of the big
things to be concerned about
in this crisis and a balance
that we have to strike is keep-
ing small businesses alive, so
we don’t lose them,” he said in
a radio interview on WNYC.
“Keeping people employed so
they have money for the rent,
for food, for medicine, every-
thing people still need.”
Taxi driver Augustine Tang
said he drove around New
York City for eight hours
Thursday and took home
about $120 compared with his
usual $200 or $250.
“I don’t see as many people
willing to street hail,” he said.
“It’s hard when competition is

supplies like alcohol. But Mr.
Ginsberg also said he is
swamped filling prescription
orders during the coronavirus
outbreak, leaving him little
time to think about much else.
Still, Ms. Yoffe isn’t entirely
alone. On Etsy, a global e-com-
merce platform, several sellers
are offering their versions of
sanitizer. And in Warwick, R.I.,
JB Pharmacy & Compounding,
a local independent pharma-
cist, started making sanitizer
when it ran out of the com-
mercial product.
“My door hasn’t stopped
opening,” Paul Capuano, a
pharmacist and partner with
the business, said of the re-
Mr. Capuano added that he,
too, is facing shortages of al-
cohol and aloe vera, so he is
coming up with a reformulated
version of the sanitizer with-
out those ingredients. He is
also running out of plastic
bottles, so he may put the san-
itizer in a tube.

New York City’s lowest-paid
workers already are feeling
the squeeze as concerns about
coronavirus exposure keep
customers away from restau-
rants, taxis and other busi-
Araceli Torres, a manicurist
who earns $12 an hour at a
nail salon in the Bronx, said
business is so slow that the
owner is closing a couple of
hours early each day and cut-
ting workers’ hours. Ms. Tor-
res has been taking home $
to $15 a day in tips, compared
with $40 before the pandemic.
Ms. Torres, 33 years old
and a single mother, said she
is stressed about paying rent
and other expenses. She is
also worried about catching
the virus on the public bus.
“My children depend exclu-
sively on me,” she said
through an interpreter. “If I
were to get sick, I wouldn’t
know what to do.”
New York elected officials
and public-health authorities
have urged residents to avoid
crowded areas and work from
home if possible, but low-wage
workers often are employed in
the service industry and don’t
have that option.
Many hourly and freelance
workers don’t get paid when
they don’t work, but busi-
nesses have been reducing
hours or closing as customers
opt to stay home.
New York City is offering
interest-free loans and cash
grants to small businesses
hurt by the slowdown in an at-
tempt to keep them afloat.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de
Blasio said the city can some-
times provide financial assis-
tance to low-income residents
who are struggling to pay
rent. He recommended that
people call the city’s nonemer-
gency hotline at 311 if they are
threatened with eviction.


made by machine so the consis-
tency is much better,” she said.
Ms. Yoffe’s stores are in the
minority when it comes to go-
ing into the hand-sanitizer
business. Several independent
pharmacies throughout the
city said they aren’t making

the product. CVS, a major
pharmacy chain with stores
throughout the city, said it has
no plans to produce sanitizer.
One reason for not going
into production, said Alec
Ginsberg, part of the family
that owns C.O. Bigelow, a
Greenwich Village pharmacy
established in 1838, is the dif-
ficulty right now in securing

The problem is that
basic ingredients
are now getting
harder to find.


As many people opt to stay
home, taxi drivers say they are
having trouble finding fares.
Workers disinfected seats last
week at Barclays Center in
Brooklyn, right. With sporting
events and many other
gatherings canceled, many low-
wage workers say they are
concerned about how they will
pay rent and meet other bills.

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ing through what feels like a
ghost town. They are really
worried about paying for their
groceries—and that’s not an
Julie Garrison, president of
staffing firm Tapuz Inc., said
hospitality jobs are in scarce
supply for the servers, bar-
tenders, cooks and customer-
service workers her company
supplies to clients. Hundreds
of events have been canceled,
including trade shows, con-
certs, corporate events, bar
mitzvahs and catering gigs,
and organizers are unable to
reschedule because no one
knows exactly how long the
pandemic will last.
“It’s really a standstill at
this point,” she said.
The only work that hasn’t
dried up is from a small num-
ber of affluent clients who are
booking cooks and servers to
come to their residences.
“I assume it’s because these
people don’t want to leave
their homes,” Ms. Garrison
Radka Horackova, a Queens
resident who books bartending
jobs through Tapuz, said an
event she was supposed to
work this weekend was can-
celed. As of Friday, she was
still scheduled to work two
other jobs this weekend, one
for a catering company in Wil-
liamsburg, Brooklyn, and the
other as a sous chef at Sur La
Table, where she has noticed
lower attendance recently at
cooking classes. Her Monday
shift at Sur La Table was can-
celed, however, leaving Ms.
Horackova out about $100.
Ms. Horackova, 36, said she
is worried about contracting
coronavirus and would like to
stay home. But she needs to
work so she can pay a doctor’s
bill that has been sitting on
her desk for a while, as well as
next semester’s tuition at Bar-
uch College, where she is
studying journalism.
“It would be better for us to
not go to work for two weeks,
but can we afford it? That’s
another question,” she said.
“The nature of our business is
if you don’t go to work, you
don’t get paid.”

“They are on the front lines
of the economic collapse as
well as at-risk from the virus,”
Ms. Desai said. “They’re driv-

doubly concerned because
many yellow-cab drivers are in
their 60s. Public-health offi-
cials have said older people
are more susceptible to the

As residents of the New
York metropolitan area search
high and low for commercial
hand sanitizer during the cor-
onavirus pandemic, at least a
couple of Manhattan pharma-
cies are offering an alterna-
tive: They are making and sell-
ing their own version.
Tisane Pharmacy & Café, lo-
cated on the Upper East Side,
and City Drug & Surgical, in
the Washington Heights neigh-
borhood, started production of
the sanitizer a few days ago as
supplies of commercially made
products dwindled. Both
stores are owned in part by
Yelena Yoffe, a veteran phar-
“It’s pretty easy to make,”
said Ms. Yoffe, who estimates
she has sold hundreds of bot-
tles since she started produc-
tion at the stores.
The product is priced at
$4.99 for a 2-ounce bottle,
which is far less than what
some retailers in the city have
been charging for commercial
versions in recent days. New
York state Attorney General Le-
titia James has warned about
price gouging on sanitizer and
other in-demand products dur-
ing the coronavirus situation.
Ms. Yoffe said she is mak-
ing a profit of less than $2 a
bottle, which doesn’t factor in
the time and effort it takes to
produce the sanitizer. She said
she wasn’t driven by the fi-
nancial opportunity, but rather
a desire to help her customers
during a difficult time.
Consumers can, of course,
opt to make their own sani-
tizer at home using the most
basic ingredients, such as al-
cohol and aloe vera.
The problem is that those
ingredients are now getting
hard to find. Even Ms. Yoffe
isn’t sure how long she can
maintain production given the
While Ms. Yoffe has been
glad to offer her customers
store-made sanitizer, she ad-
mitted it doesn’t quite mea-
sure up to, say, the ever-popu-
lar Purell brand.
“The commercial version is


Cleared Out of Hand Sanitizer,

Some Stores Make Their Own

Bottles of hand sanitizer made by Tisane Pharmacy & Café on
Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A 2-ounce bottle is priced at $4.99.


Workers Struggle as City Shuts Down

Low-wage employees

lose income; some

want to stay home

but can’t afford it


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