BOSTON — As fears about potential outbreaks of the coronavirus spread globally, Massachusetts food and beverage retailers are reporting a massive decline in business at local Chinese restaurants.

“We have already begun to see Chinese and Chinese-American restaurants in Massachusetts report a sudden and swift decline in business due to inaccurate correlations drawn between patronizing these establishments and the coronavirus,” said Bob Lutz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, in a recent statement. “It cannot be overstated that all restaurants regardless of the ethnic origin of its owners, or cuisine are required to operate at the same high health standards required by the state of Massachusetts.”

The coronavirus, which has been labeled a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, has so far been responsible for the deaths of some 1,100 people worldwide, eclipsing the number of deaths caused by 2003’s SARS outbreak. However, public health officials indicate that the risk of contracting the virus is just as low in the Chinatown neighborhood—currently home to close to 100 of the city’s Chinese restaurants—as it is elsewhere in the city.

"There has been a lot of fear about the novel coronavirus, and we need to be aware of these fears and not let them get the best of us," said Dr. Jennifer Lo, medical director for the Boston Public Health Commission, adding that there’s a much greater health risk from the common flu; currently responsible for over 10,000 national deaths this season.

The first known case of the coronavirus in Massachusetts was reported earlier this month. The victim, an unidentified UMass student in his 20s, is currently under quarantine at his home and is being monitored by health officials.

“We want to stress that although the risk to the general public is low, anyone can get this virus and become sick,” said Caitlin McLaughlin, a spokesperson for the Boston Public Health Commission.

“It is imperative to understand that while anxieties may be high, we should not target any one group, or operate in a climate of fear that is not based on facts,” continued Lutz. “I ask the good people of Massachusetts to continue to patronize these restaurants across the state and show your support.”

Image via Flickr/Can Pac Swire