By Sarah Mizes-Tan

At a Sacramento State forum on Tuesday, officials tried to calm fears around the spread of the coronavirus and addressed concerns over xenophobia or racism against the Asian

American community.

The discussion, hosted by the Asian Pacific American Advocates was led by a panel of experts which included state health officials, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and State Sen. Richard Pan.

“When panicking results in prejudice and xenophobia, we must call it out for what it is, because there is no excuse and no reason to point the finger at any group of people, especially in this case the Asian American community and Chinese American community,” Steinberg said.

While there have been no reported hate crimes related to the coronavirus in the Sacramento region, Steinberg and others did mention they’d heard of Asian-run restaurants and stores, particularly along Stockton Boulevard in the Little Saigon neighborhood seeing decreased traffic and urged members of the public to continue to support those businesses.

Some business owners at the forum said they were seeing a slight increase in sales as a result of officials warning the public to have a few weeks worth of food on hand.

“It looks like a lot of people buying rice, noodles and those kinds of dry goods, but business is normal,” Sau Vong, owner of Vinh Phat supermarket on Stockton Boulevard said.

Linda Lui of the Chinese IndoChina Friendship Association, a local business association, said she’d been seeing similar trends at other supermarkets in the area as well.

“I think because of this coronavirus, it might actually bring more people to the business, because they might forget to buy rice or salt or toilet paper,” Lui said.

Members of the public also asked how contagious the disease was and heard general tips on prevention. Experts also warned that while the public may see a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases, it wouldn’t necessarily mean the disease was spreading faster, just that there would be more availability of testing in the coming weeks.

Pan also urged the public to refrain from pointing at specific communities as sources of the virus, as it could actually make the spread of disease worse.

“The bullying and stigma is dangerous from a public health standpoint,” he said. “You do not want people to go underground because they’re afraid they’re going to be bullied or socially rejected. People need to understand that we need people to come together and support each other, and if someone has symptoms that might indicate they might have this infection, we want people to come forward.”

The panel also stated that if individuals feel they’ve been the subject of a hate crime, they should preserve as much evidence as possible and report it to the police.

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