Coronavirus fears are impacting some Asian-American businesses in western Washington

SEATTLE - Coronavirus fears are taking a toll on some Asian-American businesses in western Washington. From Seattle’s International District and beyond, many restaurants and other businesses report a dip in customers.

“Businesses are down 30, 40, 50 percent. It’s a tough time. One of the ways we can tell is on any given day, Monday through Friday, any part of the week, there’s usually no parking spaces around. Now there’s parking spaces all over,” said business owner David Leong.

Leong said his family has owned businesses in the International District for 85 years. He opened the Fortuna Café in January 2020, hoping his restaurant full of Chinese culture would boom in business.

Once news spread around the world about the coronavirus outbreak in China, Leong said the bustling International District slowed down significantly.

“Saturdays and Sundays when lines are out the door for a lot of restaurants for Dim sum and other types of food, you don’t see those lines. It’s been going on for the last month and a half,” said Leong. “It’s really tough for everyone, but you know, at the end of the day you have to keep working hard and resilient. And I think everything is going to be okay, it’s going to take a little time, but you go to keep pushing forward.”

Friday, King County leaders took a stand after hearing from some who have been discriminated against. Leong said his community feels ostracized.

“There’s some history here, okay? So, I don’t believe that this area should be just cast aside,” he said.

Public Health – Seattle & King County launched new resources to clear up misinformation about the infection and combat stigma. Leong said he hopes the efforts are enough to reignite energy in the district.

“I want everyone to know that nothing has changed in Chinatown International District. We’re all still working hard. We still put out great food down here, great service. It’s been around for 150 years, Chinatown. It’s going to be here for another 150 years,” said Leong.

Officials with the health department said no one has tested positive for coronavirus in King County.

The Washington State Department of Health says the risk of contracting the virus remains low in the state and nationwide. The state also provided simple, yet effective tips to help prevent any viral respiratory infection—starting by maintaining good hygiene:

• Wash your hands frequently.
• Avoid touching your mouth and eyes.
• Cover your coughs and sneezes.
• Stay away from people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick.

DOH also has a blog addressing stigma.