There’s no weather event, corporate bankruptcy or airline crash that even comes to close to the disruption of global travel due to coronavirus, or COVID-19 to be scientifically correct. The extent of the health crisis the virus will cause is still unknown but there’s no doubt that the travel industry, including airlines, hotels and cruise ships will feel the effect of this event for a long time. All of the secondary tourist locations like restaurants and gift shops are also feeling the effect of fewer visitors.
While COVID-19 first appeared in China, the delay in symptoms from infection makes it a perfect example of how a disease can rapidly spread with an interconnected global community. With stories of quarantines spreading around the globe, it’s no surprise that people are afraid. What’s scarier than an invisible germ that could possibly kill you and there’s no way to tell who’s infected? People in California and Alabama are complaining that they don’t want quarantined people staying anywhere near their neighborhoods.
When there’s a lack of information, people will start to form their own opinions, even if they aren’t based on any sort of scientific evidence or logic.
I wasn’t surprised when I read this article from Gothamist about how people are avoiding New York City’s Chinatowns in Manhattan and Queens even though there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City.
While a decreased number of tourists from China is contributing to the problem, New Yorkers who previously went to the numerous Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood are now avoiding the area entirely. To try and combat the worries of travelers, tour guides are taking people around the area, showing them it’s still safe to visit Chinatown.
Here are some headlines about the same thing happening in Chinatown neighborhoods around the country.
- San Francisco – Has coronavirus scared people away from SF’s Chinatown?
- Seattle – Coronavirus concerns impacting businesses in Chinatown-International District
- Phoenix – Misguided coronavirus fears hitting Asian American businesses
- Chicago – Chicago’s Chinatown takes a hit as coronavirus fears keep customers away. Business is down as much as 50% at some restaurants.
Honestly, all you need to do is type any city with a Chinatown into Google with the phrase “(city) coronavirus Chinatown” and you’ll find multiple posts about how people aren’t visit the communities due to coronavirus. America isn’t the only country with this problem as European cities from Milan to London are seeing the same reaction from residents and visitors alike.
With cases appearing in South Korea, Japan, Iran and now in Italy, the CDC is putting out the idea that it’s possible for an outbreak of the disease to happen in the U.S. Fears resulting from this threat will only make people act more irrationally, possibly avoiding contact with all people of Asian descent. After all, if you’re worried about dying, do you have to the time to figure out if someone is from China, Korea, Japan or Singapore? Not to mention that the person you’re looking at might have been born in the U.S. and never even stepped a foot outside of their home country.
I have a bad feeling about the spread of this virus and how it will cause people to panic. Despite calling it coronavirus or COVID-19, people still associate it with China and by association, people of Chinese descent and anyone who looks like they might be from any Asian country.
Back to the question at hand. Should YOU avoid going to Chinatown because you’re afraid of getting COVID-19? There’s no evidence that going to Chinatown will increase your risk of getting sick. Statistically, you’re at more risk of dying from the flu than you are from coronavirus.
It’s more the fear of getting sick than the actual chance of catching the disease that’s keeping people away. Convincing people that it’s safe to visit Chinatown once COVID-19 is under control will take much longer than it took for people to avoid the neighborhoods in the first place. Here’s hoping the hard-working people in these communities aren’t affected too much because of the unwarranted negative publicity they’re receiving due to no fault of their own.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary