Coronavirus fears leading to discrimination, Asian-Americans report


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As governments around the world work to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, some Austinites say it’s affecting their daily lives here. According to the head of the Asian American Cultural Center in Austin, some Asians are experiencing discrimination stoked by fears of the deadly virus.

Amy Wong Mok, the center’s president, said one of her staff members walked into the gym the other day and coughed because she had just come in from the cold. She said people left the room or moved far away from her, treating her “like a plague.”

“I think this is really a test to our community,” she said. “And it requires us to do some reflection. How do we deal with fear, without losing our humanity?”

She has also had to send out an email to parents of the preschoolers who attend the center, assuring them staffers have not been to China recently or spoken to anyone who has.

Meanwhile, business owners in Houston’s Chinatown say they’re experiencing a drop in customers, according to KPRC. A false rumor of a possible case of the virus there spread on social media, prompting business owners, health officials and State Rep. Gene Wu to join together and encourage people to shop there.

The Associated Press reported Friday 772 people have died of the Coronavirus in China, and more than 30,000 people have been diagnosed in mainland China. At least a dozen people in the United States have tested positive for the virus, according to the CDC.

But, Texas health officials say none of those cases are in the state.

Currently, less than 100 people are being quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio after they were evacuated from Wuhan, China, where the disease first began to spread. Other evacuated Americans are being quarantined in Sacramento and San Diego, California, and Omaha, Nebraska.

The Centers for Disease Control on Friday stated it maintains its belief that the immediate risk of coronavirus exposure to the public is low.

“That should be the discussion — about how we are going to contain the virus, how we should not react to our fear and let it get the best of us,” Wong Mok said. “And I think that should be the discussion. I think, I truly believe, when there’s a crisis there’s an opportunity to learn, to reflect, to be better.”

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