Honolulu Mayor and Chinatown community address Coronavirus concerns


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell along with several city agencies as well as leaders from the Chinese business community addressed concerns about the impact of the Coronavirus in Chinatown.

Fear surrounding the spread of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is hurting business in Chinatown according to local shop owners. Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to squash fears and rumors surrounding the community and remind the public that you can’t catch the virus simply by coming to Chinatown.

An area once bustling with people, Chinatown in Honolulu is seeing fewer customers and less foot traffic. And many that do come, wear protective face masks.

“We just want to protect ourselves from anything that could infect us,” said Rosemarie a Honolulu resident who stopped by Chinatown with three of her friends–all wearing face masks.

Even though city officials said there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Hawaii, businesses in Chinatown are being impacted by the virus.

“In the past week or two, business was down because on a daily basis we have rumors about the virus in Chinatown,” said Barinna Poon, the property manager for Mauna Kea Marketplace.

Poon said that business has dropped between 30 and 50 percent depending on the shop.

Caldwell and Chinatown representatives want to dispel those rumors.

“You can’t catch the Coronavirus or COVID-19 by walking around Chinatown where they may be more Chinese-Americans than in other parts of our community. You don’t get it cause you’re around people who are of Chinese ancestry,” Caldwell explained.

This isn’t the first time Chinatown has been hit by fear surrounding a virus.

Back in April 2003, it was anxiety over the spread of SARS.

Then Governor Linda Lingle spent a day eating at restaurants in Chinatown to reassure everyone it was safe.

“We just have to show that there is nothing to be fearful of” Lingle said at the time.

That message remains the same today.

“We stand here today with Chinatown and want the people of the city and county of Honolulu to know they can come here and continue to shop, can come here and continue to go to restaurants and buy other types of products as we deal with COVID-19,” Caldwell explained.

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