Coronavirus Fears: Oakland's Chinatown seeing decline in business amid global outbreak

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The weeks after Chinese New Year should boost the bottom line for Chinatown merchants, but not this year.

"Normally we would be expecting many customers coming to Oakland Chinatown" said Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Chan says merchants are taking a hit because visitors are staying home due to fears about the novel coronavirus.

"It is between 50 to 75% drop and that is not what we would expect during Chinese New Year," Chan said.

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The official name for coronavirus, COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China and some people worry about a link between the discovery of the virus in China, and potential spread to areas like Chinatown. But, Alameda County has reported no confirmed coronavirus cases and Chinatown merchants want you to know it's safe.

"I'm still encouraging people to come out and not only come to Chinatown but go to places and enjoy yourself and your family" Chan said.

Oakland merchants are not the only ones fighting the stigma unfairly linking the virus and Chinese Communities.

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The Oakland Unified School District is following state guidelines - asking students who have visited mainland China to stay home for at least 14 days and come to school if no symptoms develop. But doing that without stigmatizing the kids is a balancing act.

"We don't stigmatize anybody. we don't allow anybody to stigmatize anybody" Said John Sasaki, spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District.

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