Updated: Mar 11, 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been a global concern, affecting health and public safety. Businesses in Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities here in California have been drastically affected by stigma surrounding the outbreak. We spoke with several of our members in the API community, business owners, and community partners throughout the state about how the coronavirus has impacted them and their communities.
Impacts on the API Community
Due to the fear of COVID-19, there has been an outbreak of fear and discrimination against Chinese people and other Asian communities.
It is culturally common for Asians to wear masks for allergies or illnesses when they are in public. This is one way to prevent sickness from spreading to others in public. However, this practice is less common in Western culture. And due to the fear surrounding COVID-19 being spread, there are assumptions that wearing a mask means you have COVID-19, when this is not actually true. Sadly, this has led to increased racial discrimination and prejudice against multiple Asian communities.
Lunar New Year celebrations are the biggest holiday for the Asian community. It is a grand occasion for Asian communities, bringing in new business leads and increasing revenue. However, this year’s celebrations were cancelled over concern of COVID-19 spreading, because there was no information at the time about how to contain or prevent infection. This cancellation was on a global scale – not just limited to areas in China, but globally, including communities in United States and Philippines.
"Asian Business Association of San Diego represents one of the state's largest markets for the Asian Pacific Islander (API) business community. Many of our local businesses have expressed concerns over some unfounded and unfair attacks to our community, which ultimately hurts our local economy. This first came at an important time for our community, during Lunar New Year celebrations, where we typically see an increase in activity in our API business corridors during this time of year for large families and friends that take part and learn about our welcoming cultural celebrations. We've been assertive in our advocacy in San Diego, reiterating health official's statements that the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low. While San Diegans must be vigilant at this time to ensure there is no spreading, this should not deter individuals from shopping, dining, and supporting our region's small businesses." – Jason Paguio (President and CEO of Asian Business Association San Diego)
Effects on Businesses
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many API businesses have been impacted across the United States. We interviewed businesses in our community to share their thoughts on the matter.
“All of our businesses in China have been significantly affected due to the coronavirus outbreak from disruption of shipping logistics, supply chain, labor shortage to sudden rise of costs; while we are still in the midst of digesting the increased import and export tariffs between China and US. The significant uncertainty over the impact of coronavirus began shading into global fear. What hurts most is our US clients’ confidence level for China procurement and investment is at lowest point. The encouraging aspects are we see China side is putting together many reassurance programs to support local businesses to survive and reducing China import duties from US to save key industries transactions. We are hopeful that US will do the same soon. I have faith this crisis will be over someday as long as we can sustain and continue to find ways to survive. It is always through hardship and pressures that opportunities will emerge!” – Margaret Wong (President and CEO of McWong International, Inc.)
“Sales in Asia have come down a bit with the initial shock of the virus. We presume a delayed start to 2020 because of this but are confident that it will recover within a few months.” – MBDA Export Center Client
“The outbreak of the Coronavirus is having a dramatic impact on our clients that rely on or have operations in China. Due to travel restrictions and quarantines imposed by the Chinese government, the Coronavirus has impeded the ability of audit firms to complete their audit of U.S. public companies with substantial operations in China. This will have a significant impact on our capital markets if the Securities and Exchange Commission does not provide some form of regulatory relief like they did during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the closing of factories that supply parts and goods to U.S. companies will adversely affect U.S. business and customers. For example, clothing retailers order merchandise a few seasons ahead. The Coronavirus has basically shut down or severally limited production and shipment of goods. So come next season, many of the now struggling retailers will not have new products to sell. Also, many U.S. companies are now forced by buy higher levels inventories and at much higher prices in order to hedge against the prolong effects of the Coronavirus.” – John P. Yung (Partner, Lewis Brisbois)
“April 23rd event has been postponed. U.S. Commercial Officers from 5 Asian countries were scheduled to travel here to present on trade and commerce in those countries. Event is now on a holding pattern due to travel restrictions in light of the evolving virus outbreak.” – Access Asia
“My business has been affected, I got last minute export orders cancelled while our partner warehouses in China are still closed due to the virus, and we are still unable to ship out orders for customers in China. For domestic impact, we already had China export customers order in place with everything ready for bottling, customers had to cancel the orders because they are unable to operate the business in their end, the government is shut down that they are not going to be have the goods custom cleared. For overseas in China, all the logistics are shut down, stores are closed, no consumers are able to dine out that really affect our sales in China.” – MBDA Export Center Client
“The outbreak has affected our business in four major respects: travel, financing, demand from foreign buyers and prices of our export products. Specifically, 1) with regard to travel, we generate sales leads from overseas. This, for the most part, require travel to the places our clients do business. The outbreak has made it risky to travel thus resulting in little or no trading activity; 2) the financing of our trading activities has been impacted because we were able to borrow against our receivables. The absence of no receivable or prospects of one has made it difficult to borrow from the micro-financiers, our primary source of financing due to higher interest rates or unwillingness to finance; 3) It appears there has been a reallocation of resources by foreign buyers (especially from China) to more pressing and urgent items such as masks and other medical protective gear. This has eliminated demand for other products thus reducing our ability to sell other US-produced items, such as automotive parts; 4) we are experiencing higher prices for the export products due to scarcity caused by reallocation of manufacturing resources. This hurts our ability to sell them as the foreign buyers are able to purchase the same products elsewhere for less.” – MBDA Export Center Client
In light of what the coronavirus outbreak had on small businesses, Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), the Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), First Vice Chair of CAPAC, have introduced legislation aimed at assisting small businesses that suffer economic harm from the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the bill, the "Small Business Relief from Communicable Disease Induce Economic Hardship Act", small businesses can access Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million for aiding in operating expenses and financial obligations. The bill specifies that loans would be interest free.
To learn more about this bill please read the press release statement: https://velazquez.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/velazquez-chu-meng-bill-would-assist-small-businesses-harmed-coronavirus
Health and Public Safety
On March 5, 2020, under Governor Gavin Newsom, state health officials announce more than 22 million Californians are now eligible for free medically necessary COVID-19 testing. Read the press release here for more information.
Currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best prevention is to avoid exposure to this illness. However you can use every day preventative actions to combat the spread of common illnesses.
Wash your hands often with soap and water
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth (these areas are most vulnerable)
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
Avoid coughing and sneezing into your hands or onto other people
Better to use tissues or cough into your elbow
About face masks:
Face masks are used by sick people to prevent others from getting infected
A healthy person wearing a face mask may still get exposed to sickness through other means
Always take care to properly wear face masks (follow instructions and diagrams closely)
People who are most at risk to illness are:
People with compromised immune systems
Viruses affect people across all ethnicities and social backgrounds. Viruses don’t discriminate based on race. You should only worry about getting exposed to the COVID-19 virus if you have been in contact with someone who is confirmed to have the disease. Studies have also shown that the COVID-19 can also survive on inanimate surfaces for up to 9 days at room temperature.
Remember to stay informed with the news and follow medical procedures. If your area has no cases of COVID-19, you have a very low chance of getting exposed or infected by it.
For information please check out the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. Please listen to the medical experts and researchers in charge of combating this disease, and take steps to make informed decisions regarding this outbreak.