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Asian-owned businesses have been especially hard hit by reaction to COVID-19 because of labels like 'Chinese virus,' statement says

PMG FILE PHOTO - Outside the Portland Chinatown Museum during the 2018 Portland Dragon Dance Celebration.The Portland Chinatown Museum has spoken out against ethnic labeling of COVID-19.

Labeling the pandemic the "Chinese virus" stokes hatred toward citizens of Asian origin who are part of the fabric of American society, the museum's staff and board of directors said in a statement released Sunday, March 29.

"The labeling does nothing to save the lives of those infected with the disease and may actually hamper efforts to find a cure. Today, the American scientific community has praised the physicians and researchers in China for publishing their vital data to help the world understand and treat patients afflicted with COVID-19. Unfortunately, this has not stopped the suspicion, racism and violence occurring in our cities against Asian Americans who look 'Chinese,'" reads the statement by Dr. Patrick Y. Lee, Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery at Oregon Health & Science University, on behalf of the museum.

According to the statement, ethnic labeling of the virus recalls dark times in American history, including Japanese citizens being sent to internment camps after Pearl Harbor.

"Although the internment camps are empty, the echoes of the brutality and injustice are still heard and felt whenever our elected officials blame an ethnic group for an illness originating in another country," the statement reads.

The statement also says ethnic labeling hurts Asian-owned businesses. Although COVID-19 restrictions have severely affected the local restaurant industry, Duncan Hwang, associate director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, said especially hard hit are Asian and other immigrant-owned restaurants, which have been impacted by the virus since January when American's first started learning about the disease that originated in Wuhan, China.

"Before the outbreak in Oregon, (Asian-owned restaurants) had reported 30% to 80% of reduced business," Hwang said. "Partially, that was due to kind of fear within Asian American communities of not wanting to congregate and gather because the news from back home was constantly about the virus."

"During these disruptive and transformative times, we as Americans should do what we have taught our children to do; unite, do good, work hard and help others. We urge you to stay safe, speak up about injustices and help businesses not only in Portland's historic Chinatown but throughout our city, state and country. As in The Pledge of Allegiance written by Francis Bellamy, 128 years ago, 'we are one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.'" — Statement, The Portland Chinatown Museum

You can read a previous Pamplin Media Group story about the impact here.

Gabby Urenda contributed to this story.

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