HOUSTON - Harris County Health officials reassured members of the Houston Asian community Tuesday that there have been no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the area. However, authorities said the virus has taken a toll on local businesses.
“We have zero cases of novel coronavirus which we’re not just talking Houston, Harris County or just this region. But we’re talking about all of Texas and even beyond the region, just outside of Texas,” said Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said local, state and federal authorities have already taken extra precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Flights that are coming to Houston and Harris County are getting rerouted elsewhere. The closest airport is DFW,” said Hidalgo.
During a forum hosted by the Asian Chamber of Commerce, dozens of community members came forward with questions about how to protect themselves.
“Is it necessary for us to buy the face masks to wear at home?” asked one attendee.
Bin Yu, Chairman of the Asian Chamber of Commerce said the public’s fears about the deadly virus has already taken a toll on Asian businesses in Chinatown.
“The coronavirus didn’t arrive at all but the rumor and the fear already arrived. It’s hit our community and our economy pretty bad,” said Yu.
“Our businesses in the Chinatown area have dropped 50 to 80%. Our kids, our employees are afraid to go to work and to school because of the fears of people’s perceptions of them. Please still come to shop. Come to eat. Go to school. There’s nothing to worry about,” Yu continued.
Lawmakers now reiterating a clear message that rumors will not be tolerated.
“If you spread false information, you are doing serious harm to your community and you could be potentially legally liable for causing harm to people’s businesses, to people’s reputations,” said Gene Wu, TX State Rep. Dist. 137.
Health officials say people should be more vigilant about protecting themselves from the flu at this point. Doctors recommend washing your hands often, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and quarantining yourself when sick.
Dr. Shah said the best thing folks can do is to get their flu shot this season.