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'A Huge Hit': LA County Health Officials Say Chinese-Owned Businesses Suffer Amid Coronavirus Fears

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County health officials are encouraging residents not to abandon Chinese-owned businesses and restaurants amid the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director for the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Monday that the spread of misinformation about the virus is causing these establishments to suffer.

"Your very presence at the events that are happening does send a powerful message to everybody who lives in the county, that it's safe to go out, it's safe for us to enjoy ourselves, it's safe in particular for us to continue to patronize our Chinese vendors, our restaurants," she said at the meeting. "Those businesses have taken a huge hit, with a lot of misinformation that is circulating. We had them on one of our phone calls and they are really suffering from people who just don't have good information, and are fearful of going to their markets, going to their stores, going to their restaurants."

The CDC announced Wednesday an official name for the coronavirus strain that broke out in China late last year: COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The number of people who have died from coronavirus topped a thousand worldwide, and health officials confirmed the 13th U.S. case in San Diego County, which is also the seventh case in California.

In Riverside County, the 14-day federal quarantine ended Tuesday for nearly 200 people who were evacuated out of the Wuhan, China — the region where this new strain of coronavirus is believed to have started — and taken to March Air Reserve Base. They constituted the first group of Americans evacuated from the region when the outbreak began. None of the people who were on the flight tested positive for the virus.

Military personnel on the base have faced harassment from concerned community members, according to Riverside County health officials. In an open letter Monday, Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser wrote that "a few base workers have even been accosted in uniform" by community members who are concerned about the quarantine.

Kaiser called their concerns "unreasonable," adding that some community members "have taken them (their concerns) out on the families and households of people working at March Air Reserve Base."

"There have been comments made that have been hurtful — both in person and on social media — that are often based on incorrect or incomplete information," Kaiser wrote.

Several tourist attractions across the globe have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, including overseas Disney amusement parks and all of Macau – where casinos are popular with Chinese tourists. Tourism all over Asia has ground to a halt, and at least 30 airlines have suspended flights to and from China. Several cruise ships have also been quarantined due to coronavirus exposure.

For more information on the coronavirus, visit the CDC website.

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