Asian restaurants, students facing impacts due to coronavirus

PITTSBURGH — Local Asian restaurants say they’re seeing less business since news came to light of the spread of COVID-19, initially known as the coronavirus

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The owner of Silk Elephant in Squirrel Hill said fewer customers have been coming in to eat since news of the outbreak spread.

“Certain demographics of customers we lost because of the fear and such,” said Norraset Nareedokmai.

Recently, Nareedokmai said more customers are coming back as people learn more about the virus. He reiterated that restaurants are triple checking where they get their ingredients to make sure the food is safe, and they are keeping up with the health department’s guidelines.

Additionally, many Asian students at area universities said they are experiencing some level of discrimination since the outbreak. Some are subtle, while others are clearer.

Albert Tanjaya, vice president of external affairs of Pitt’s Asian Student Alliance, told Channel 11 there are things as small as some students not sitting next to his friends in class. Another incident dealt with a coughing fit.

“(My friend) just got a cough that one day, and a lot of people turned around and just stared at her,” said Tanjaya.

Pitt students are drafting a joint statement with the university’s Student Affairs to address any discriminating behavior on campus due to the coronavirus.

Mike Chen, who owns two Chinese restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, opened his doors and set his tables for top city leaders to share a meal and set the record straight.

“This is something that has been going on for 5-to-6 weeks now, and as you can imagine, these mom and pop stores can only do this for so long,” said Chen. “The virus does not come from the food. The Chinese restaurant is the same as the Italian restaurant, the French restaurant. We’ll fight this together.”

Mayor Bill Peduto said the coronavirus in Pittsburgh is “inevitable," but it won’t come from your food.

Chen said his restaurant is extra vigilant and his employees are taking vitamins and sanitizing more often. If they travel abroad, Chen said they have to stay at home for three weeks before returning to work.