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Community leaders denounce stigma surrounding coronavirus

Community leaders and public health officials gathered Friday in Seattle to say there has been a rise in racist incidents directed toward Asian Americans, including false accusations that they are more likely to carry the novel coronavirus.

Devin Cabanilla says his son and wife approached a woman who was giving out food samples at a Costco in Issaquah last month. She told them to go away so they wouldn’t infect her with the coronavirus. 

His 8-year-old son had been wearing a mask. 

“After we were leaving, I remember him saying ‘Did they really think I was from China? Is it because of mom’s face?’” 

Cabanilla said his wife, who is Korean-American, is still upset by the incident. He says the CEO of Costco later contacted him to apologize.

Meredith Li-Vollmer, who works for the Department of Public Health at King County, said a colleague of hers experienced the same kind of racist attitudes while riding the bus in Seattle this week.

“He had coughed and someone said to him, ‘Oh, are you from China?’ And backed away.” 

Local politicians and community leaders are trying to dispel the myth that Asian American are more likely to carry the virus, which has spread rapidly in Wuhan, China, but it has so far only affected one person in Washington state.


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