Assemblymember Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas) along with San Jose District 4 Councilmember Lan Diep held a press conference Friday addressing the recently-confirmed cases of COVID-19, otherwise known as novel coronavirus, or simply coronavirus, in Santa Clara County.
The presser, held at the Pacific Rim Plaza in North San Jose, highlighted the “huge economic losses” experienced by local Asian businesses in the wake of the coronavirus.
Pacific Rim is notable for its high concentration of Chinese-owned restaurants and businesses — many of which have taken an economic hit in recent weeks due to coronavirus fears.
Speakers at the press conference encouraged locals to support local restaurants, as the low chance of contracting coronavirus should not warrant a significant change in behavior.
“The fear of the coronavirus is spreading much faster than the actual virus,” said Chu. “We are seeing a tremendous economic impact. Some of these mom and pop businesses are hit hard and they might never recover if this situation persists.”
The sharp decline in business, according to local Chinese leaders, stems from “xenophobia, racism, and fear” of Asian residents and establishments, which officials pinned as unfounded and hurtful.
The United States has seen an uptick of hate crimes against Asian Americans in the past few months, including verbal and physical attacks on East Asian Americans.
Also in attendance Friday were the Oriental Food Association and the Local Chinese Restaurant Group, including celebrity chef Martin Yan, who voiced their support of local Asian businesses.
Both the Oriental Food Association and the Local Chinese Restaurant Group donated 30 contactless hand sanitizer dispensers for businesses throughout the area.
“This disease knows no boundaries. It’s not just Chinese or Asian restaurants,” said Yan, as he asked residents to not shy away from Chinese and other Asian restaurants. “Eating at a Chinese restaurant isn’t just supporting Chinese people. You’re supporting the economy of America.”
Santa Clara County declared its own local emergency on February 10 over the virus, a procedural move to secure immediate public health funding should more cases of coronavirus be reported.
The county remains confident that the risk of an outbreak is “still low.”
In conjunction with the declaration, the county also released an anti-discriminatory message, asserting that there is “no racial, ethnic or cultural basis for novel coronavirus.”
Chu urged residents to reject and report racist attacks on Asian people, and to reject conflating the virus with a xenophobic or political agenda.
“There are people out there who are prejudiced,” said Chu. “People in my community have complained of being targeted and discriminated against.”
As of Friday, there have been three confirmed cases of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, including a confirmed case announced just hours after the press conference. One of the patients has fully recovered.
Meanwhile, there are 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States — including 27 in California — although no deaths have been reported. In China, where the first cases were reported, over 78,000 people are confirmed to have the virus, while the death toll has reached approximately 2,800.
Still, county officials assured residents that the risk of infection is low, so long as they follow a proper cleanliness routine as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That includes frequent handwashing and limited contact with others if you are sick for any reason.
“It’s clear we need to live a very normal life,” said Chu. “We need to do these precautions in any flu season — washing our hands, avoiding contact with sick people and drinking a lot of fluids.”
This story has been updated as Santa Clara County has confirmed a third case of coronavirus Friday afternoon.