Local Chinese community expresses concern over coronavirus outbreak

Local Chinese community expresses concern over coronavirus outbreak

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials in Hawaii say there is a very low risk that the islands will be affected by the coronavirus outbreak spreading through China.

But there are are some from China who are here -- and worried about those back home.

That includes two teachers and two students visiting from Wuhan, believed to be ground zero for the outbreak.

“We made the decision out of an abundance of caution to cancel their on-campus activities, but they’re still enjoying their time in Hawaii and we’re really glad about that,” said Keenan Kurihara, communications director at Maryknoll School.

The group of Wuhan Number 1 High School arrived last week Friday as part of one of Maryknoll’s many international exchange programs. They’re scheduled to return to China on Monday.

“They didn’t have any symptoms, they’re feeling fine,” said Kurihara. “The Department of Health did advise that they dn’t pose a risk to the community.”

Many on campus are concerned about what’s happening in China.

“We have guests here that have a lot of things going on back home, and I’m sure that they’re worried about their family, their friends, their school,” said Kurihara. “But we’re praying for them. We’re praying for their families.”

Meanwhile, the local Chinese community is also having to deal with news of the outbreak while celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year.

“Family gets together, no matter how far they are,” said Chu Lan Schubert-Kwock of the Chinatown Business and Community Association. “It’s like Thanksgiving. You find all ways to get home.”

Schubert-Kwock said she has heard of families who have decided not to go to China for the new year because of the coronavirus outbreak. Some travel agents there have been some cancellations.

“A lot of them are avoiding it because why risk contaminating yourself and others, right?" said Schubert-Kwock. “I think it is a very serious issue.”

Health and transportation officials in Hawaii say the risk of coronavirus in the islands is very low. There are also very few direct flights between China and Hawaii.

People are still concerned for loved ones in China, where transportation has been brought to a halt in some areas during what’s normally a peak travel period.

“I think it’s such bad timing because it’s Chinese New Year, and most people are worrying about family and about health, about this problem,” said Schubert-Kwock.

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