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U.S. cities rally behind Chinatowns, quell fears of COVID-19

(Xinhua)    14:13, February 18, 2020

NEW YORK, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Golden Imperial Palace, a major restaurant in New York City's borough of Brooklyn, was packed on Sunday with hundreds of people having a dim sum brunch in an effort to encourage people to ignore misplaced coronavirus fears and keep eating at eateries in the city's Chinatowns.


"We're hearing a lot of rumors and negative comments about the Chinese community since the outbreak of the illness, the fact is that our community is safe and open for business," John Chan, president of Brooklyn-based Asian American Community Empowerment, who cohosted the event with local community leaders and entrepreneurs, told Xinhua.

There have been no cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia, officially dubbed COVID-19, confirmed in New York so far and public health officials say the disease poses a very low risk to locals.

But businesses in New York City's Chinatowns that spread throughout five boroughs, have seen less foot traffic in the past few weeks since the disease first emerged in Wuhan, capital city of China's Hubei Province.

"There is no reason for anyone to panic or avoid the activities in Chinatown," said Chan, adding they will hold an education seminar on COVID-19 in cooperation with a medical association about proper response to the illness on Tuesday.

Chinese Consul General in New York Huang Ping was among the guests at the Sunday event to encourage people to show their solidarity by patronizing Chinatown restaurants.

"Supporting one another is the right way that we can get through this," said Huang, who voiced his confidence that China will win the battle against the epidemic.

"Stay strong, China! Stay strong, Wuhan! Stay strong, Chinatown!" chanted groups of smiling diners in Chinese when they posed for photos one after another with the Chinese senior diplomat as the event approached to its end.


Sunday's dim sum brunch was part of the ongoing joint efforts made by New York city and Asian American communities to quell the tide of fear and misinformation about COVID-19.

"My secret is out!" tweeted Mayor Bill De Blasio late last Thursday after he held a luncheon together with his top commissioners and local business leaders at a Chinese restaurant in Flushing, Queens.

"Can I use chopsticks? No. Will I keep trying anyway? Yes. Should all of you head out to our city's MANY Asian-American owned restaurants this weekend for a bite to eat? HECK yes," he wrote.

"As they say: you win some, you dim sum," Freddi Goldstein, press secretary at New York City Mayor's Office, told local media. "Don't sit on the sidelines. Get to your local Asian-American owned business and get in the game."

Anyone who experiences any discrimination can report it by calling 311, city officials said.

Restaurants and shops in Flushing experienced a 40-percent decline in business, according to Peter Tu of the Flushing Chinese Business Association.

Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said that in addition to restaurants, places like doctor's offices, nail salons and other service industries saw a decrease in business, too.

Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the city's Department of Small Business Services, attributed the business decline to people's responding to "unfounded rumors and fears about the virus."

Other major cities including Boston and Chicago have also rallied behind their Chinatowns in recent days.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has launched a social media campaign last week encouraging people to share photos of themselves supporting small businesses in the neighborhood with the hashtag #LoveBostonChinatown.

The campaign includes a "small business bingo" card of things visitors can do in Chinatown, like trying dim sum, sipping at bubble tea, buying fresh pastries, checking out public art or taking a selfie in front of its signature gateway.

Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago's public health commissioner, said at a recent news conference that it was not necessary for the general public to change their behaviors.

"No need to cancel events. And certainly, no need to avoid coming to Chinatown," Arwady said, while asking people to "please do not allow stigma, xenophobia or fear to control your decisions."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Bianji)

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