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Xenophobia against Chinese on the rise in Alameda County amid COVID-19 outbreak, health officials say

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DUBLIN, Calif. (KRON) — As Alameda County Public Health officials announced the county’s first two coronavirus deaths this week, they also urged residents to not lash out with racism against the county’s Chinese American community.

“There is no racial, ethnic or cultural basis for COVID-19,” the public health office wrote in a news release.

Alameda County now has 124 cases of COVID-19 with evidence of “widespread community transmission,” according to the health office. One person who died was elderly and had underlying conditions that placed them at greater risk of serious illness. With no history of travel nor known contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, the person was most likely infected by someone in the community. A second death was confirmed by the county on Tuesday.

The global outbreak is causing fears locally to rise. The health office wrote, “Alongside increased public fear around the COVID-19 outbreak, incidents of discrimination and racism against Chinese and other Asian Pacific Island communities have increased. Alameda County encourages all residents and businesses to reject racist rhetoric and promote the health and safety of all people living in our communities.”

If you witness racism, xenophobia or discrimination, “speak up and reinforce facts. Guide people to trusted resources … and remind people that we’re all in this together, as a community,” the health office wrote.

The county’s top health officer, Dr. Erica Pan, said her own daughter experienced uncomfortable moments at school.

“My daughter is half Chinese-American. People say rude things, like how they might be infected … treating them differently. We heard about kids not being let into school,” Pan told KRON4. “And it doesn’t help that the federal government is calling it the ‘China virus.”

President Donald Trump uses the terms “China virus” and “Chinese virus” during his White House press conferences. Last week he disagreed with reporters who suggested that the term was racist. Trump asserted, “It’s not racist at all. No, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”

Pan said Trump’s language does not help the Asian American community during a challenging time.

“I don’t support calling it that. This is a global pandemic,” she said.

Trump had a change of tone at his White House coronavirus task force press conference this week.

Trump said: “It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States and all around the world. They’re amazing people and the spreading of the virus is not their fault in any way, shape or form. They’re working closely with us to get rid of it – we will prevail together.”

Resources for more COVID-19 information: the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Alameda County.

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