HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Chinatown businesses say sales and foot traffic have plunged 30 percent in the wake of the recent coronavirus scare.
Even though no local resident has come down with the disease in Hawaii, merchants said consumers are staying away from Chinatown because of unfounded fears that they’ll be exposed to the virus.
“A lot of phobia, a lot of misunderstanding and not knowing what is really going on is causing a lot of apprehension,” said Victor Lim of the United Chinese Society of Hawaii.
Business leaders said restaurants are taking the biggest hits. Another sign, hard-to-get street parking spots have become easier to find.
"You can't catch the coronavirus or COVID-19 by walking around where there may be more Chinese-Americans than in other parts of our community,“ said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who joined local businesses and state and city officials at news conference today.
“You cannot catch the COVID-19 or the coronavirus from parsley grown in Waianae, nor papayas in Puna,” he added.
Dr. James Ireland, Medical Director for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, added:
"I just look to the federal government and they say that it's low risk for the people of the United States including Hawaii. I walk around with no gloves and no mask and I'm not concerned to come down here,” he said.
There are about 400 business in the Chinatown district and most are small businesses with less than 10 employees.
They hope other measures -- such as beefed up security and cleaner sidewalks -- will help bring back shoppers.