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Show Of Support In Chinatown As Coronavirus Panic Leaves Businesses Deserted

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Fears over the coronavirus are turning Chicago's Chinatown into a ghost town.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, struggling businesses did get a boost on Monday night. But there are concerns that if this keeps up, some businesses may be forced to close.

The silence says it all at Phoenix restaurant, a Chinatown staple of 30 years at 2131 S. Archer Ave. Typically, the restaurant is serving up small plates to packed tables on Monday night.

But this Monday night, the restaurant was deserted.

"It's not enough to cover everything," said longtime manager Fai Liang.

Liang said fears about the Wuhan coronavirus – also called COVID-19 – and the two confirmed cases in Chicago in which both infected people have since recovered – are to blame.

"We bring our own money to make the restaurant running," Liang said.

And Phoenix is not the only business hurting. When asked if businesses are afraid they might have to go out of business, Liang said, "Yeah."

So longtime residents, Carlos Matias and Jose Corcoles organized a meeting in Chinatown Square Monday night to show the struggling businesses support.

"We've got to get the message out that, you know, there's nothing to be scared of here in Chinatown, and some of these businesses and families are really hurting because of the stigma," Matias said.

"Come out and enjoy," added Kim Tee. "Have good food and good conversation."

The group hopes to show the rest of the city, and the regular customers who've been skipping their shopping trips and meals here, that Chinatown is open for business.

And it's business Liang says they need.

"I hope everybody will come back again to like support us," he said.

Public health officials said it is perfectly safe to enjoy Chinatown right now. The two people confirmed to have the virus in the Chicago area were released from isolation weeks ago.

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