JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida remains at four, some local Chinese businesses are feeling the impact caused by people’s fear of being infected.
An employee at one Chinese restaurant in Jacksonville said she’s not used to seeing empty tables.
“It’s kind of hard for us. We’re just sitting here waiting for our customers," said Hiba Massis, an employee at Ying’s Takee Outee Chinese restaurant on University Boulevard.
From Dallas to New York City, it’s a trend that has been happening all over the country and now it’s happening in Jacksonville — Chinese restaurants experiencing declines in customers amid fears of COVID-19.
On any given day at Ying’s Takee Outee, there would be a substantial number of cars parked in the parking lot and people eating inside. Restaurant employees said business all of sudden started slowing down in February when reports of a coronavirus outbreak in China started escalating.
“When it first started, business was okay. As it continued to spread and spread then reached the United States, that’s when it dropped. It was a major drop," Massis said.
Although the restaurant is still getting business from regular repeat customers who call in orders, an empty dining room is proof that things are very slow, despite the effort employees are making to ensure the place is sanitized and safe to dine in.
“We’re constantly washing our hands and keeping a few hand sanitizers on-site," Massis said.
Just up the road on University Blvd, China 99, which is owned and run by a Chinese family, is facing the same problem.
Employees at China 99 didn’t want to go on camera, but confirmed to News4Jax that business has slowed down ever since the threat of coronavirus started dominating the news.
One of the employees who is related to the owner said she believes they are now seeing less customers because people are associating the coronavirus with Chinese people in general.
Glen Walz and his brother Raymond just moved to Florida from New York City. They say Chinese businesses there are also taking a major hit.
“I understand people are a little bit afraid," Massis said. "But there’s no reason to be afraid. We’re taking all the steps to be responsible for ourselves and others, so I just want you guys to know – don’t be afraid.”
In some areas of the country, owners of Chinese restaurants are blaming the drop in business on rumors and misinformation about coronavirus that have overshadowed facts.