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Shane Drozdzak, a former Verdon College student, said the past month living in Brooklyn had been "surreal".
"It’s literally like being in a movie ... going to the supermarket feels like you’re in an apocalypse."
On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed the state’s death toll from the virus had exceeded 10,000.
Mr Drozdzak, who had lived in Invercargill most of his life, moved to New York a year and a-half ago to be with his partner, Gaby Nunez.
They had planned to return home last month — but decided it was not worth the risk.
The last month had been"pretty intense", knowing many friends had tested positive for the virus in New York.
Some of those friends had lost family members to Covid-19.
"We have a friend from the gym who has been in ICU on a ventilator for nearly a month."
Mr Drozdzak said it was scary to think that if he did get sick, his family would not be able to visit him.
The couple's business, Power Plate, prepares meals specially designed for athletes.
The couple had decided to use their business to donate food to people who no longer had any income, and had provided more than 300 meals for people in their community.
"We’re really lucky we’re in a good position so we want to be able to give back to people."