Asian-American-owned businesses in Portland have seen a downturn in business since the coronavirus outbreak because of xenophobic and racist stigmas about the virus' spread, Multnomah County said in a statement Wednesday.
"Some members of our immigrant communities and communities of color have experienced acts of racism and xenophobia," the county announcement said, "while Asian American-owned businesses have even reported fewer customers because of the myths surrounding COVID-19."
Kate Willson, a spokeswoman for Multnomah County, says the county has received a spike in calls from Asian-American business owners, asking officials for help as business falls. Willson says the county doesn't have any hard numbers on what's happening, just anecdotal accounts from business owners.
Holden Leung, the CEO of the Asian Health and Services Center, says restaurant owners in the Jade District—the "new Chinatown" along Southeast 82nd Avenue— have described a drop in business.
"People are scared to go out for dining, so that is impacting business," Leung said.
"Let us be clear," the county said in its press release. "No one will catch this virus simply from enjoying a meal at their favorite spot in the Jade District or patronizing any other Asian American-owned business."
The county's announcement follows a similar warning from Portland Public Schools, which said students of Asian descent had experienced discrimination. (The district did not cite specific incidents.)
The county suggests anyone who has experienced discrimination to report it online or by calling 1-844-924-BIAS (2427) so officials can track the number of complaints.