AUSTIN, Texas - Local Asian-owned businesses are being impacted by panic over coronavirus.
Employees at the Chinatown Center in Austin said, for the past few weeks, the parking lot has been emptier than usual. Those in the Asian community said they've also noticed the difference at Asian markets.
“Very slow, very slow. I was so surprised. Even on a Friday evening, where it should be packed and with a lot of people shopping for their weekend groceries, it was slow. It's obvious,” said Amy Mok, founder of the Asian American Cultural Center in Austin.
Asian restaurants are seeing another interesting trend.
“I was at a Chinese restaurant eating and I was asking the owner and the server, I said, ‘Do you see the dropping of business?’ And they said, ‘Yes, obviously.’ But then the takeout orders are up, so people do not want to eat and dine at the restaurant, so they would rather take out,” Mok said.
The difference became noticeable as concerns of coronavirus surfaced. The virus was originally reported in Wuhan, China.
That’s more than 500 miles away from Mok's birthplace in Hong Kong. Still, Mok said she can tell there's been a shift in how she's treated whenever she's in public.
“I just think that I just do not want this to become a racial attack,” said Mok.
Mok said just last week she was shopping when she suddenly sneezed. Everyone around her stared and some people even backed away. Mok said she made sure to let them know she hasn't been to China in a long time.
“I shouldn't have to, but I think the way they look at me made me feel like I need to humor them because I don't want to traumatize them because an Asian face sneezed within 10 feet of the facility,” said Mok.
Although Mok said she is trying to stay positive, she worries about the message being sent to the younger population.
“The thing I'm most afraid of is how we are impacting children, because we are the role models for our children. So, are we teaching them to be afraid? To be afraid of people who do not look like us?” Mok said.