Rapid spread of coronavirus prompts local organizers to cancel Chinese New Year events | News | Palo Alto Online |

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Rapid spread of coronavirus prompts local organizers to cancel Chinese New Year events

Public celebratory festivals in Palo Alto will not take place this year

The sponsors of two major Chinese Lunar New Year fairs in Palo Alto that would have drawn thousands of celebrants have canceled the events due to concern over the potential spread of the coronavirus. The illness originated in Wuhan City, China, in late December, and cases are now being found in other countries, including the U.S.

The 2020 Palo Alto Chinese New Year Fair, which was to take place Feb. 16, and the Avenidas Chinese Community Center's Lunar New Year Celebration, scheduled for Jan. 30, were canceled out an abundance of caution, the events' sponsors said. Neither organization plans to reschedule the New Year festivities.

The sometimes fatal disease causes fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. China's National Health Commission has reported more than 4,500 cases and 106 deaths in the country.

Severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Five cases have been confirmed in the U.S., including in southern California, among people who had traveled to Wuhan, according to the CDC.

Santa Clara County health officials said the risk of becoming infected locally is low at this time, but the Palo Alto events sponsors said they felt canceling the New Year celebrations was the right thing to do. Palo Alto's Chinese New Year Fair attracts thousands of people who share food, demonstrations and activities.

"Due to the uncertainty and the risk of the Wuhan novel coronavirus epidemic, the 2020 PA CNY (Palo Alto Chinese New Year) Fair committee voted last night to cancel this year's CNY fair," committee members Lily Chiu, Steven Lee and Ann Xu wrote in a Jan. 23 email. "We believe being prudent at this critical time is a responsibility to our community.

"We are saddened that after about four months of hard work by the whole committee on preparing for the event, we must make this decision at this point. We hope the situation will improve soon," they wrote.

That decision was followed by the cancellation of the event by Avenidas, a Palo Alto nonprofit that serves seniors and their families. Already, some seniors have been showing up for classes wearing protective masks, according to Amy Andonian, Avenidas president and CEO.

Avenidas hasn't canceled its classes, but staff members are educating seniors on how to recognize the disease's symptoms and take precautions. Staff are working with a medical supplies vendor to find masks to give to seniors for free, she said.

The organization decided to follow suit after learning on Jan. 24 of the Palo Alto Chinese New Year Fair Committee's decision.

"In particular we're serving the elderly, who are more at risk," Andonian said.

Staff also considered the logistics. Their event takes place at Cubberley Community Center in a large room, but the space can be crowded when 150 seniors show up.

Many of the Chinese seniors who attend Avenidas' programs do travel frequently to China, potentially exposing themselves to the virus, Andonian said. Talking with health providers and the agency's insurer, the organization staff weighed the pros and cons.

"The biggest concern is that the virus is to be at its peak in the next 14 days because of the New Year. Maybe the risk is small, but it's not worth it. … We don't want to take any risk," she said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Santa Clara County Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody said during a press conference in San Jose that there are no reported cases of the novel coronavirus in the county nor in the Bay Area. She noted there are many forms of coronaviruses. The common cold is caused by a coronavirus, she said.

Still, the county public health department is working closely with other agencies. It has activated the county's Emergency Operations Center mainly because there is so much information to disseminate and the center offers the most expedient way to distribute the information to all agencies and medical facilities.

The county is not suggesting any general actions for people to take, such as wearing masks, unless one is ill.

Unless a person recently traveled to Wuhan or was in close contact with someone who was ill who recently traveled in that area, there is little risk of coming down with the disease, the public health department said in a statement.

The department cautioned against going to large group gatherings in general since influenza and other respiratory viruses are highly common right now. The health department also emphasized that everyone should get a flu shot to protect against influenza, which can produce similar symptoms to the coronavirus.

The San Mateo County Health Department said that reports of a case in Daly City are false. There are no cases of the novel coronavirus in the county.

Coronaviruses are infections found in some species of animals including camels, cattle, cats and bats. On rare occasions, it can mutate to infect humans. Recent outbreaks of coronavirus included the serious diseases Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), which jumped from camels, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), which mutated from civet cats, according to the CDC.

The disease in Wuhan, called 2019-nCoV, was not known before in humans. Its DNA profile has since been identified. Many patients infected by the virus were initially linked to a large seafood and live animal market, which suggested that the virus jumped from an animal to a person. A growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, however, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring, according to the CDC. Person-to-person spread is not known to have occurred in the U.S. cases.

More information and updates about the novel coronavirus can be found on the Santa Clara County Public Health Department's website.

Santa Clara County also has a call center open to answer questions about the coronavirus Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 408-885-3980.

The county has an anonymous 24-hour crisis line for anyone feeling stressed and overwhelmed about the coronavirus. It is available daily, including holidays, at 800-704-0900 (Mental Health Services) or at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Disaster Distress Helpline, available 24 hours at 800-985-5990 or by texting TALKWITHUS to 66746 (Press 2 for Spanish).

Related content:

Man tests positive for novel coronavirus in Santa Clara County

Coronavirus outbreak prompts Stanford to order travel restrictions, quarantines

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Comments

10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 28, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Did these volunteer groups consult with the county health department or any private doctors before canceling these events? Or was the decision based on rumors and innuendo?


2 people like this
Posted by David Theil
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 28, 2020 at 7:29 pm

"Dr. Sara Cody said during a press conference in San Jose that there are no reported cases of the novel coronavirus"

The writer either misinterpreted the doctor's words or the doctor spoke in error. While corona viruses do cause some colds, most colds are from other viruses (rhinovirus, adenovirus or influenza mostly). Although the exact breakdown varies with source, I found none claiming coronavirus causes more than 20% of colds.

Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Walters
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 28, 2020 at 9:39 pm

Cover up.
Be safe.
Why take a chance on your communities health ?


2 people like this
Posted by Bay Area Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 28, 2020 at 11:59 pm

Does American Airlines care whether their passengers get infected? One person of a party had been in China, exposed to the Chinese coronavirus — so easy to spread in the closed environment of an airplane cabin — but when they tried to cancel the flight from San Jose California to Phoenix Arizona , AA said they would not help.

The flight arrangements for the little vacation got booked long before the outbreak. After the Chinese person arrived, after they learned about how easy it is to spread this deadly disease, that person has stayed quarantined and isolated.

After several phone calls and several escalations, finally, reached someone who could help. But help did not come. Today, an American Airline customer service person told the Chinese passenger, “it is up to you to get on the flight or not, we cannot refund your ticket to Arizona.”

This customer service person is correct that this AA ticket has a limitation on refunds or rescheduling. Yet in the midst of the coronavirus is aggressively threatening people’s life even in US, this Chinese passenger is responsibly following the 14-day self-quarantine guideline advised by the local Public Health.

In the spirit of conscientiousness, they informed AA and asked for refund of the tickets due to this natural disaster. AA customer service informed them that only if “you are forbidden to get on the airplane by us then you will be refunded the money.”

Then this passenger asked, “Imagine, if tomorrow three person who maybe at risk of carrying virus showing up at your boarding gate, what will you do?”

This customer service lady said, “I do not need to answer this question. It is up to you to get on the flight or not.”

“At this point, I am feeling angry and speechless,” this passenger said. “It is not because AA refused to refund me the tickets money. I realized that AA is willing to risk the well being of the rest of the passengers of this airplane for the face value of the tickets. We are trying to be a good citizen to follow the public health guidelines, and this AA customer service woman gave such an irresponsible answer. Although the virus is in China for the moment, it is spreading all over the world, and now it is the fight of people against the virus, and citizens of the earth have the responsibility to protect the lives on this planet. I do not feel any humanity from this woman, only indifference and heartlessness.”

“I know some western media blame the Chinese government for violating human rights by locking down the entire city of Wuhan. However, I see this is a broad act of humanity, supporting the human rights of China and the whole world. If we told Wuhan citizen it is up to you to go where you want to go, then we put the human rights of the people in the rest of the world in jeopardy.”

This Wuhan passenger expressed deep sadness that this AA customer service has such a low awareness, knowledge and empathy toward the world that we are living, a shameful attitude.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2020 at 2:39 am

Thank you for canceling these events. It is better to be over cautious.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2020 at 8:21 am

Perhaps Superbowl parties should be canceled also. They are just as likely to have sick people!

This is not mainland China. Unless everything that includes people gathering together is canceled, then why choose just this?


15 people like this
Posted by Place A Temporary Moratorium on Visitors From China
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 29, 2020 at 3:12 pm

restrict immigration & tourism from China until this virus passes. it did not originate in the USA.


2 people like this
Posted by a community member
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2020 at 6:23 pm

An article from Toronto, but relevant to this decision here, "The idea that Chinese communities should be avoided is entirely inconsistent with the advice of medical professionals," Toronto Mayor John Tory said. Link: Web Link

The Palo Alto community made the wrong call, one that may feed xenophobia (as seen in some of the comments on this board).


19 people like this
Posted by Maybe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2020 at 6:40 pm

I'm Chinese born in the U.S. and know of a lot of Chinese immigrants who are fearful of the coronavirus and are not socializing. It's quite possible that the events were cancelled because they feared low attendance. Not only, if there is an outbreak here, we don't want stereotypes and resentment. Not our fault that China didn't contain this back in December when they discovered it!

Remember to cough or sneeze into your arm sleeve, not into your hands!


6 people like this
Posted by Wuhan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2020 at 8:38 pm

Well, if you or your associates have been in Wuhan in December to present, then we appreciate it if you don’t join public or community events for two weeks. This has nothing to donwith discriminating against Chinese, it’s common sense.


9 people like this
Posted by Maybe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2020 at 10:38 pm

Wuhan - There are many people who lack common sense, don't give people so much credit. And a lot of them are Ivy League graduates.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2020 at 3:36 am

Anyone who has traveled to mainland China in the last 6 weeks, or who lives with someone who has, should self quarantine themselves as much as possible for the next couple of weeks.

Banning events that would be enjoyed by many who have had no chance of contacting the disease is counter productive.


4 people like this
Posted by Helen
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 30, 2020 at 6:03 am

Nobody banned anything . The organizers of the event decided to cancel it.


2 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 30, 2020 at 6:53 am

Cancelling these events did not help public health. On the contrary, it is leading to confusion, panic, and misinformation. Although the disease originated in Asia, there are zero known cases in the Bay Area. The chance of getting infected with this disease at a Chinese New Year event in Palo Alto is basically zero.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 30, 2020 at 7:42 am

You are more likely to catch and die from the flu than the coronavirus at any gathering in California. All this bashing of Chinese people is just racism, thinly veiled or not.


9 people like this
Posted by Helen
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 30, 2020 at 7:48 am

@JR

You should read the article. Public health officials are not spreading undue concern.

The Virus originated in a specific province of China. (Not Asia general as you misinform)

The organizers had sound reasoning and were motivated to protect the community they serve - which in the case of Avenidas is largely Asian and of those predominantly Chinese. I quote from the article, since you did not read it :


“Staff also considered the logistics. Their event takes place at Cubberley Community Center in a large room, but the space can be crowded when 150 seniors show up.

Many of the Chinese seniors who attend Avenidas' programs do travel frequently to China, potentially exposing themselves to the virus, Andonian said. Talking with health providers and the agency's insurer, the organization staff weighed the pros and cons.

"The biggest concern is that the virus is to be at its peak in the next 14 days because of the New Year. Maybe the risk is small, but it's not worth it. … We don’t want to take any risk”


1 person likes this
Posted by lindsey rim
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2020 at 9:24 am

It's a disaster realy , more than 100 of people are dead Web Link , i dont know when and where it s gonna end.


9 people like this
Posted by Barry Wong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 30, 2020 at 10:53 am

My family is from Taiwan which remains in political/geographical conflict with mainland China over sovereignty.

That said, I am glad that the local celebrations have been banned as the virus is being brought over by the mainlanders, many of whom travel as tourists or have immigrated to the United States due to their newfound prosperity in the manufacturing sectors.

Besides and what many Caucasian US citizens don't seem to quite comprehend...the Chinese Lunar New Year is primarily a Cantonese celebration. Religion & various Chinese cultural traditions were banned during the early Communist indoctrination of the People's Republic of China during Mao's reign of terror & well into the early 1980s.

This is why the former British colony of Hong Kong is having difficulty 'acclimating' or assimilating into modern-day China.

The mainland Chinese in America have little reference to Chinese traditions other than maybe the food.

That is why (outside of language/dialect) they are so easy to tell apart from Chinese-AMERICANS who have been here for generations.

We not only retain our Chinese culture BUT we have also assimilated into mainstream American culture as well.

Wuhan should remain quarantined & travelers from that region not allowed into the United States...period.




1 person likes this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Helen, your attempt at misinformation is not appreciated and not helpful. I quote the article, since you did not read it:

Unless a person recently traveled to Wuhan or was in close contact with someone who was ill who recently traveled in that area, there is little risk of coming down with the disease, the public health department said in a statement.

Palo Alto residents who have not recently traveled to Wuhan (e.g., 99.999%+ of Palo Alto residents, of any ethnicity) are at little to no risk of coming down with the disease. Cancelling these events was a mistake, just like your alarmist and unhelpful reply.


3 people like this
Posted by Beware of the Rat
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Since rats were responsible for the European outbreak of the Bubonic Plague, maybe the Year of the Rat means something.

Best to exercise caution but not be overly paranoid. Restricting incoming travelers from China to the US is a good precautionary measure.


6 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2020 at 8:04 am

Delta and AA just cancelled all flight to/from China. United expected to follow. Sounds like cancelling the events in Palo Alto was smart.


6 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2020 at 8:20 am

“The virus, which was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now spread to at least 18 other countries and has dampened sentiment over global economic growth.”


“The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the deadly pneumonia-like virus as a global health emergency on Thursday, citing concern that the outbreak continues to spread to other countries “


Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2020 at 8:48 am

Airlines canceling flights is prudent as is anyone canceling plans to visit China. The airlines are protecting their flight crews, and also their bottom line as the very empty planes flying there will be costly.

However, canceling events where large numbers of people gather - be they Lunar New Year activities or a large football game, is taking it too far. Anyone who has returned from China or lives with someone who has, should self quarantine themselves. Otherwise, there is no point.

If people don't self quarantine, within a month we can cancel whatever, but it will be everywhere. It is the individuals who have to stay at home, not the world to stop turning.


8 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2020 at 10:24 am

It’s not how many people attend an event that matters.
It is how many people who are likely to have travelled to China and particularly Wuhan in the past 14 days of the quarantines that matters.

An Chinese New Years event in a town with a large Chinese immigrant population with the means and frequency of travel to China, is not equivalent to a Super Bowl game. Unless you have some data to suggest that a large percentage of the ticket holders to the game are similar to the Chinese New Years event percentages.


10 people like this
Posted by Helen
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2020 at 3:22 pm

@JR

Here we go. It's now in Santa Clara County. 99.999% did you say ?

Web Link

Cancelling the Chinese New Years Celebration WAS the right thing to do.

Now lets take this thing seriously before more people get it.


6 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2020 at 10:36 am

They're playing it safe, and erring on the side of caution. A wise thing to do.


1 person likes this
Posted by Big deal
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2020 at 2:41 pm

A party was cancelled, well in advance.
oh, the horror.


2 people like this
Posted by Gratefull
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 18, 2020 at 7:52 am

As the number of Wuhan Corona cases nears 100,000 in China and is now spreading worldwide do to the failure of the Chinese and other governments to contain the infected, these celebrations should be cancelled indefinitely.

My family is grateful that The organizers of this years celebration did so.


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