SAN FRANCISCO - Business is off in San Francisco's Chinatown since the initial outbreak of Covid-19. Now, Facebook is donating $20,000 aimed at getting out the message that Chinatown is open for business.
For anyone familiar with San Francisco's Chinatown it's clear something is off. Parking is easier, the sidewalks clear, the shops largely empty. Businesses say they've seen a dip in business since Covid-19 first appeared. "Yeah, I've noticed a difference," said Tane Chan from The Wok Shop. "There's less foot traffic. And Chinatown is so traditional culturally. We have so much to offer here please keep coming."
Now one day after announcing it would be canceling its F8 conference in the South Bay Facebook is stepping forward with a $20,000 grant for the Chinese Newcomer Service Center to produce ads to encourage people to visit chinatown and spend their money. The social media giant saying many visitors to F8 would have been from overseas, and deemed that to be too risky.
Facebook also saying the risk of going to the Chinatown and supporting small businesses is small compared to the real threat of those businesses closing their doors due to a lack of customers. "We do take these times seriously," said Michael Matthews from Faceboook. "It's important to, and to act appropriately. But, it's equally important not to be xenophobic as everyone talked about and not be frightened of it and to do our best to bring our communities together."
It's a message that was amplified by Mayor London Breed, who visited Chinatown, and met with merchants. She said she took the step of declaring a state of emergency earlier this week to make sure that if a case of coronavirus does appear in the city all the resources necessary to combat the infection will already be in place. "We are ready in case it occurs," said Mayor Breed. "But, in the meantime I don't want us to live in fear. So part of what I want people to do is I want them to enjoy the city."
As for The Wok Shop, Tane Chan has hedged her bets, making sure she can reach her customers even if they aren't coming to Chinatown. "Unfortunately we have seen a slowdown, but we are online so you can go to our very user friendly wok site, wokshop.com," said Chan.
The city is also warning again against an apparent increase in racism directed at members of the city's Chinese American, Chinese immigrant and other Asian American communities who say they've been targeted since the coronavirus began infecting people overseas. City leaders say that kind of racism is unacceptable.