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Don’t Stigmatize Chinese Restaurants

Feb 26, 2020

For at least the past two weeks, owners of Chinese restaurants have been telling reporters that business is slow due to fears of COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus. “At restaurants in Manhattan’s Chinatown, workers and owners said business had dropped 50 to 70 percent in the last 10 days,” the New York Times reported earlier this month.

Just last week CNN noted, “ Unfounded fears have traveled overseas: Chinese restaurants in Australia, Canada and prominent Chinatowns in the US have seen sales sputter as fewer people visit them.”

Soup dumplings in a Chinese restaurant in New York City.

Yet those reports appear only to concern independent restaurants. How are popular (and privately held) Chinese chains — Benihana, Pew Wei, P.F. Changs, and Panda Express, among them— faring so far?

We checked their websites. None have mentioned COVID-19. And likely for the same reason that independent Chinese restaurants would not want to mention it, either: Why after all remind people of a frightening disease that to date is virtually non-existent in the U.S.?

A search of Twitter meanwhile using “Chinese restaurants coronavirus” turns up dozens of recent references to the disease — many of them supportive.

We’d hate to see Chinese restaurants here and abroad stigmatized by uniformed people who mistakenly believe contracting COVID-19 is the result of food preparation or being seated next to an Asian customer (or a person believed to be from mainland China). It’s not.

Here’s how people get infected.

So let’s discourage diners from spreading misleading information about or behaving negatively toward Chinese people or their restaurants. The Centers of Disease Control lays it all out below:

  • Making negative comments in person or online about a group of people and COVID-19.
  • Treating people of Chinese or Asian descent differently, or assuming they must have or can spread COVID-19.
  • Avoiding businesses, such as restaurants or shops, owned by people of Chinese or Asian descent because of fear of COVID-19 infection.

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