AA Bakery and Cafe in San Francisco’s Chinatown usually has customers out the door for its egg tarts and pineapple buns. But a rumor about an employee said to have contracted coronavirus has sent prospective customers scurrying elsewhere, according to local CBS affiliate KPIX. The bakery’s owner, Henry Chang, says none of his workers are ill. Coronavirus fears have gripped the neighborhood, though. Foot traffic in the area is down by more than 50%, local residents and merchants estimate.
You’ll find the same thing happening all over the world: From Italy to Philadelphia, similar fears have driven customers away from Chinese districts—and their businesses. In some cases, these fears extended to Chinese customers, too. An ice-cream shop in Rome, for example, reportedly taped a sign to its glass door, with a warning in English and Chinese: “Due to international safety measures, all people coming from China are not allowed to have access to this place.”
These concerns are generally baseless, arguably racist, and run totally contrary to the advice of public health bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO). But for businesses, they’re all too real—as is their tangible impact on the bottom line.