Translated by Rong Xiaoqing
After five people in the U.S. were confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus originating in China, cities with high population density like New York are on alert — and several local Chinese community organizations that planned lunar New Year galas in February have cancelled or postponed the events to prevent the virus from spreading.
By Jan. 26, infection cases have been confirmed in Orange County and Los Angeles in California as well as in Chicago, Seattle and Arizona. The epidemic overlaps with the usually month-long celebration of Lunar New Year, and sent many Chinese organizations in New York scrambling to rearrange their celebration events.
The US Chinese Chamber of Commerce, for example, postponed its New Year gala originally scheduled for Feb. 9. The event was slated to feature well-known Chinese entertainers including emcee Zhu Jun, comedians Jiang Kun and Dai Zhicheng, and Dashan, a Canadian comedian based in China.
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Long Deng said Beijing has banned delegations of performers from visiting other countries because of the epidemic, so the organization had no option but to postpone the show. A new date will be announced later, when the epidemic is under control. Deng said proceeds from the show will be donated to areas of China hit hard by the epidemic.
Another community group, the American Wenzhou Association, sent out an urgent notice on Jan. 25, Lunar New Year’s Day, postponing its New Year gala slated for Feb. 7 in Flushing. A representative of the organization said that 16 cities in China’s Hubei Province, where the virus was first found, have been locked down, and more than 20 provinces have triggered first-degree emergency management. Given that the virus is spreading quickly and the epidemic may accelerate, the organization decided to postpone the gala. A new date will be announced, and those who have purchased tickets may go to the organization’s office at 32-12 Union St. in Flushing to get a refund.
Also postponed is the New Year gala on Feb. 15 in Flushing, hosted by the American Yongjia Association and Yongjia Chamber of Commerce. Yinzhuang Weng, president of the association, said many people will be returning from China after the first few days of the new year, putting Flushing — a predominantly Chinese neighborhood — at greater risk for exposure. So the two organizations decided at an emergency meeting to postpone the event, with a new date still to be announced.
Weng also calls for Chinese immigrants to protect themselves by limiting unnecessary traveling and friends’ gatherings. “The virus is cruel, but people can be wise,” he said. “If we all do our part, we can beat the epidemic together.”
Jacky Wong, a community activist, said that the Church of the Transfiguration and the St.Patrick’s Old Cathedral, both popular with Chinese worshipers, have also canceled their Lunar New Year banquets because of the epidemic. Wong said the city’s Chinese community is at greater risk, and Chinatown, where many senior residents concentrate, should impose more precautions because seniors with weaker immune systems are more likely to become victims of the epidemic.
Though 10 people in New York have been tested for the virus as of Tuesday, there have been no diagnosed cases in the state. Still, city and state officials are monitoring the situation, and the city’s health and hospital staff have protocols in place for identifying and transporting patients who present symptoms of the virus, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to an announcement last week.