As Chinatown businesses languish, Kenney tries to ease fears of Wuhan coronavirus

Justin Udo
February 06, 2020 - 3:48 pm
Philadelphia Mayor Kim Kenney stopped by Ocean Harbor to show solidarity with Chinatown businesses.

Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Businesses in Philadelphia's Chinatown neighborhood are working to squash fears people have about contracting the new coronavirus if they go to the area. City officials are working with establishments to help bring commerce back to the community.

Margaret Chen, chair of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, says she's never seen business as dry as it is now. Chen lamented over the decline in commerce while eating lunch at Ocean Harbor, a dim sum restaurant in the heart of Chinatown.

"I walk in, the manager tells me, 'we just lost four banquets,' and that's a lot especially when Chinese New Year was only two weeks ago," Chen said. 

Chen says she's making it her mission to get the word out that the area is safe, Wuhan coronavirus-free and open for business.

"The scare, I understand that. But we're safe, we're good," she added. 

"The scare has affected us economically. This is the busiest time of the year for restaurants, we're celebrating the Lunar New Year, parties are being cancelled and that hurts business," said the corporation's Cecilia Moy Yep.

In a show of solidarity with the Chinatown businesses, Mayor Jim Kenney joined Chen and Moy Yep at Ocean Harbor.

"We're trying to get the word out that Chinatown is safe, the city is safe, the state's safe, the country's safe. Everybody should relax and we have enough strong public health services to make sure nothing gets out of control," Kenney said. 

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley says they're closely monitoring the virus.

"We have a team of people working full time to identify any cases that occur in Philadelphia and to make sure they are not spreading it to others, and under a new protocol to monitor people who've come from affected areas that if they develop symptoms, they're not spreading it to others," Farley explained.