'Fight the virus, not the people!' SF Chinese-American leaders protest xenophobia following COVID-19 outbreak

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Chinese American leaders say there has been a big drop in business in San Francisco's Chinatown and for local Asian-American owned businesses, and a big increase in xenophobia following the COVID-19 outbreak.

In response, hundreds marched through San Francisco's Chinatown town.

"Fight the Virus - Not the People!" read one of the banners people carried.

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"We are here to fight two viruses. Coronavirus. But we are also here to fight bigotry," said Vincent Pan, Chinese for Affirmative Action co-executive director. "Part of the root cause is misunderstanding, which leads to fear, which leads to hate."



That fear arises, even though there are no cases of the novel coronavirus in San Francisco, say Eva Lee, with the Chinatown Merchants Association. She says foot traffic is down and many restaurants are empty.

"We are asking people not to panic and not to make it a racial issue," says Lee.

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Juan Calderon, who lives in San Jose, came to Chinatown Saturday for dinner with family and friends. He says he noticed the smaller crowds.

"It's slow. Definitely, it's slow," he says.

Calderon says he understands people's fears about the coronavirus, but they still decided to come out.

"In reality, the flue kills more people," he says.

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Darcey Wilcox planned a trip to San Francisco weeks ago to celebrate her friend's birthday, which included visiting Chinatown. They couldn't make up their minds about visiting Chinatown.

"We kind of did text back-and-forth with our husbands, should we come?" says Wilcox. But she says, after doing more research about the COVID-19, they decided not to cancel.

"It's less dangerous actually than influenza, so I decided to not panic and come. So, we are in Chinatown buying little things for our kids, and having a great time!"

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