LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Authorities Thursday reported that a 16-year-old Los Angeles County student was assaulted over unfounded fears sparked by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Calling the attack the result of "racial backlash" and anti-Asian stereotypes, county officials held a news conference in downtown L.A. with members of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council to bring attention to what they described as a groundless racism which has bubbled up since the outbreak began.
The student was taken to a hospital emergency room after being physically assaulted due to coronavirus fears, officials disclosed.
"And when I heard of the recent incident of a young child being bullied, and actually was assaulted, because he was pointed out as being of Asian background," L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis told reporters on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. "Children, unfortunately, repeat things that are said by other people, including their own parents."
The student's school and the details of the attack were not released. Los Angeles police are investigating.
"We also need to make sure we're educated ourselves on our own prejudices," L.A. County Human Relations Executive Director Robin Toma added. "That means really checking yourself, thinking before you act and make an assumption. Are you doing something because of a gross generalization or stereotype about another group? Especially true in this instance when people are fearful."
So far, there have been 15 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, including eight in California. Of those, one is in L.A. County, one in Orange County and two in San Diego County.
In China, at least 60,000 people have been infected and at least 1,359 have died from the disease.
Southern California health officials have reiterated that the risk of contracting coronavirus locally is small.
"Our goal is to send out accurate information to all of our 80 districts, reaching over two million children, to tell them there is no need for excessive fear, that there is very minimal risk of contacting the coronavirus, and that we will not tolerate any type of bullying," L.A. County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo said.
Earlier this week, Riverside County health officials warned community members concerned about the coronavirus to stop harassing military personnel of March Air Reserve Base -- where a quarantine expired Tuesday for nearly 200 American evacuees who were flown in from the Chinese province of Wuhan where the coronavirus is believed to have started.
In an open letter, 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.
Last week, an online petition to close all campuses in the Alhambra Unified School District until the coronavirus outbreak ends received more than 14,000 signatures.
The city of Alhambra — which has a large Chinese-American population — postponed its long-running annual Lunar New Year celebration over coronavirus concerns.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronavirus is spread from person-to-person through close contact, usually within 6 feet, and mainly via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
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