Bill de Blasio (R), mayor of New York City, eats Chinese food at a Chinese restaurant in New York, the United States, on Feb. 13, 2020. Several high-ranking government officials of New York City have visited Chinatowns and dined there in the past days in their show of solidarity to help quench the fear over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and support the fight against it. (Photo by Zhang Fan/Xinhua)
by Xinhua writers Xia Lin, Wei Ying, Zhang Mocheng
NEW YORK, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Several high-ranking government officials of New York City have visited Chinatowns and dined there in the past days in their show of solidarity to help quench the fear over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and support the fight against it.
On Friday, Gale Arnot Brewer, the 27th and current borough president of Manhattan in New York City, together with a dozen or so staff members, visited three Chinese restaurants in the Chinatown in Lower Manhattan and enjoyed the food by chopsticks.
Dumpling soup, stuffed bun and rice with braised duck were all her favorites. Brewer emphasized that it is safe to eat at Chinese restaurants as there has been no confirmed case of COVID-19 within New York State so far. The disease has been noticed to spread fast at large gatherings.
The Chinese food here is authentic, delicious and cost-effective, and the operators are kind-hearted and friendly, said Brewer, member of the New York City Council, where she represented the Upper West Side and the northern part of the Clinton neighborhood in Manhattan.
"Thanks to Manhattan Borough President @galeabrewer for her love and support to Chinatown businesses on Valentine's Day," said Chinatown NYC, a civilian organization devoted to the improvement of Chinese business concentrated areas, in a tweet on the day.
The restaurant owners told local media that their business has slumped by 30 percent to 50 percent in recent weeks, and Brewer's visit is expected to help crush the dread and bolster the sales.
On Thursday, with several colleagues in escort, Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, was invited by the local community to the Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, and dined at the Royal Queen, which offers Chinese dishes and dim sum in banquet-hall style.
De Blasio struggled with the chopsticks for a while and managed to enjoy himself with some dim sum, which aroused his enthusiasm to taste more.
The visit aims to root for the small businesses of Asian descents in this area, crack various rumors about COVID-19, and tell people that they can go to public places as usual because the contagion risk is low, said Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council.
"As the flagship Chinese dining spot in Flushing, the Royal Queen has continuously seen cancellations of parties and wedding banquets since the Spring Festival, which affected our business seriously," Connie Zhang, president and CEO of the dining enterprise, told Xinhua.
"Fortunately, the mayor himself comes here to help reverse it and tell us that the whole city is behind us. It is a great encouragement not only for me, but all the businesses here," she added.
After the lunch, de Blasio also had a closed-door meeting with the local community, gaining more information about the impact of the epidemic and telling the people not to flinch.
There are over 250 eateries in Flushing, whose business has slid by one-third to half under the influence of this epidemic, according to reports of local media.
On Feb. 6, NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot had her lunch in the Chinatown in Lower Manhattan, and wrote a tweet: "Today I'm enjoying a wonderful lunch in Chinatown. I've been disheartened by reports of bias and discrimination against the Asian community recently. Let me be clear - our public health response is about a virus, not a group of people."
One week later on Feb. 13, she posted another NYCSmallBusiness tweet, which said that "We're in Flushing, Queens, to show love our support for NYC's Chinese-owned businesses. We will NOT stand for any xenophobic sentiments coming from fear surrounding the Coronavirus. Let us be clear: there are 0 confirmed cases of the virus in NYC!" A photo attached to the tweet showed that de Blasio was having his lunch in flushing.
The New York State health system has publicized a telephone number for the public to get information about COVID-19, and the New York City health system has been updating its COVID-19 information on the website.
So far, there has been no confirmed case of COVID-19 in New York City as well as New York State.
There are three major Chinatowns in New York City, respectively in the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. New York and California are the two states where ethnic Chinese concentrate the most. In New York City alone, there are around 510,000 residents of Chinese descents, accounting for 6 percent of the city's whole population.