Cuyahoga County Health Department issues flyer over false coronavirus concerns at Asian restaurants

Posted at 10:43 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 23:19:43-04

CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is circulating a flyer to dispel false fears some residents may have about coronavirus health risks and eating at Northeast Ohio Asian restaurants.

Suzanne Hrusch, a Food Protection Unit Program Manager with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, told News 5 health department offices have been receiving calls for misguided residents who believe eating at an Asian restaurant puts them at risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus.

Hrusch said the health department has received so many calls that they have created a flyer that is being posted at dozens of Cuyahoga County Asian restaurants that tells customers there is no food-borne connection between getting the virus and eating at a restaurant.

"First thing this morning a person called and they were irate because having seen new cases of COVID in Italy they thought that they could no longer eat Italian nor Chinese food," Hrusch said.

"We had to go through a process of explaining that these diseases were not food-borne illnesses, that they're communicable diseases that are spread person to person, through coughing and sneezing."

"There is nothing that says that eating Chinese food or talking to Asian people will make you sick. It has to do with the virus, or the spread of the virus."

"We like to say the virus doesn't discriminate and neither should people."

The flyer tells customers the restaurant is an inspected, safe place to eat, and gives them information how to prevent the spread of the virus.

Hrusch said the county health department has also taken calls from Asian restaurant owners who reported they are victims of false fears.

Donna Hom, owner of Cleveland's Li Wah Restaurant since 1991, reports concerns over coronavirus has caused a 30% drop in weekday business.

Johnny Wu, Vice President with the Organization of Chinese Americans, applauded the efforts of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and told News 5 education is crucial in breaking down the fear, bias and prejudice triggered by coronavirus fear.

"There is no connection between coronavirus and going to a restaurant to eat," Wu said.

"Doesn't matter whether it's a Chinese, Italian, or Greek, Polish, or Irish, it doesn't really matter because the virus doesn't discriminate."

"The health department is doing it's best to proactively make sure this education is pushed out there, so you know that you can go to any Chinese restaurant or any Asian restaurant, and you can not get infected this way."

"Unfortunately Asian restaurants, Chinese restaurants are a main point because they all think this is a Chinese virus, which it's not, and unfortunately the stigma is already out there, so now we have to do our best to educate people about it."

For the latest and most accurate information on the coronavirus you're urged to go to the Ohio Department of Health, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health websites.

To view the flyer, click here.