Embracing our Chinese and Asian communities amid fears of coronavirus

This week, I took a walk through Chinatown. I stopped for lunch at Jade Garden, bought egg puffs from local bakeries, and talked with shop owners. The streets were lined with lanterns and Year of the Rat greetings. Even on this cold, wintery day, the neighborhood invited us in with a spirit of warmth and welcoming.

Chinatown is one of our city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, and Lunar New Year should be Chinatown’s busiest season. Instead, fears of the new COVID-19 (coronavirus) have kept people away, including both residents and visitors. Some business owners told me their business has dropped by 50%, and they are lucky to get a few tables filled for dinner. This sudden and steep decline in sales hurts businesses whose finances depend on this busy season — especially new ones that are just starting out.

Fears about coronavirus have spread all over the world, including here in Boston and Massachusetts. It’s affecting communities in Greater Boston and all over our Commonwealth. These fears are often fueled by misunderstanding, confusion, and lack of information. As a result, we’ve seen anti-Chinese, and anti-Asian, sentiment creeping up all around us: in our classrooms, grocery stores, apartment buildings, and on our streets. These fears reinforce harmful stereotypes — ones that generations of Asians have worked hard to dismantle. And they trigger our worst impulses as humans: to not treat each other with the respect that all people, of all backgrounds, deserve.

I want to be clear: today, and every day, Boston stands with our Chinese and Asian communities. They helped make us the world-class city we are today. From the immigrants who established the beginnings of a neighborhood on Ping On Alley in Chinatown, to the generations of families who run restaurants and stores, to the leaders who represent Boston in many ways… they have helped make our city strong. Chinese Americans and immigrants are our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow commuters on the MBTA. They are Bostonians, and they are us.

The best way to combat these fears is to learn about coronavirus and the risk factors. The risk of getting coronavirus in Boston and Massachusetts remains extremely low — and it’s no higher in Chinatown than any other part of our city or state. We’re sharing this information far and wide. We held a community meeting about the coronavirus and latest updates at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in both English and Cantonese. Our city’s health officials have been visiting neighborhood health centers to dispel rumors about contracting coronavirus and offer tips for staying healthy to avoid sickness of any kind.

We also launched an awareness campaign to promote the small businesses in Chinatown, including a fun bingo sheet to encourage residents to explore the neighborhood and its history. We’re asking visitors to post photos with the hashtag #LoveBostonChinatown to help spread the word.

Here in Boston, we’re going to continue to lead with our values and embrace our Chinese and Asian communities with love and support. In this spirit, I welcome you to visit Chinatown. Try dim sum or hot pot, buy an egg tart at a local bakery, visit the newly opened library, the Pao Arts Center, or the Wang YMCA. You’ll be supporting our small businesses, and also get to enjoy some delicious food and fun activities and learn something new about this historic neighborhood.

And if you see someone who is being unfairly targeted as a carrier of coronavirus, speak up and say something. The more we can share the facts, the more we can dispel these fears and make Boston a more compassionate and connected city.

Let’s show everyone, all over the world, what it means to be a city of neighbors.

Mayor of @CityofBoston