State Sen. Anna Kaplan, left, talks with China's Consul General in...

State Sen. Anna Kaplan, left, talks with China's Consul General in New York Huang Ping, and his wife, Zhang Aiping, at the New Fu Run in Great Neck Plaza. on Saturday. Credit: Howard Simmons

Port Washington real estate agent Rachel Sha said one woman wouldn’t allow anyone with Chinese names into her apartment, because of coronavirus fears. Tina Zhang, the owner of New Fu Run, a Chinese restaurant in Great Neck Plaza, said business was down so much that she may have to lay off employees or cut salaries.

On Saturday, local politicians, diplomats from the New York Chinese consulate and civic leaders sat down to lunch at New Fu Run to promote local Asian-owned businesses, some of which are struggling amid what Chinese Consul General Huang Ping called “panic” about the outbreak of what is now known as COVID-19.

“We should fight the virus, rather than the Chinese” people, said Huang Ping, who this month also has visited Chinese restaurants in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan in similar shows of solidarity. “That’s our enemy.”

Zhang said business at New Fu Run has been down 30% to 40% in the past several weeks, and numerous people canceled reservations for Chinese New Year, which, with Christmas, is typically the restaurant’s busiest time. Both Chinese and non-Chinese people have been staying away, she said. Zhang said she had avoided staff or salary cutbacks — but that could change if business continued to suffer.

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) said some Asian-owned businesses in the area had reported drops in customers as high as 70%.

“No business can survive that sort of downturn for a very long period,” Kaplan said before taking a seat at a table filled with pork and cabbage dumplings, shrimp with sea cucumber and snow pea leaves with garlic sauce.

“I think people are scared, and I think people need to know there isn’t anything for them to be scared about,” Kaplan said, referring to how there was not a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in New York State.

Local officials, small business owners and civic leaders join State Sen. Anna...

Local officials, small business owners and civic leaders join State Sen. Anna Kaplan, China's Consul General in New York Huang Ping and his wife, Zhang Aiping, at the New Fu Run restaurant on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza on Saturday. Credit: Howard Simmons

Nationwide, 35 people have tested positive for the virus, including 18 who returned home from a quarantined cruise ship in Japan and one new case reported Friday in California.

Nearly 78,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in 29 countries, and more than 2,300 have died, the large majority in China.

During lunch Saturday, Great Neck Plaza’s deputy mayor, Ted Rosen, chatted with local Chinese-American residents about ways to help businesses hit by coronavirus fears. One idea Rosen said he would look into was approaching building owners to allow business tenants to defer part of their rent payments until virus fears abate.

Sha said concerns about COVID-19 were widespread among her clients. The tenant of a client trying to sell her apartment refused to let Sha bring potential buyers with Chinese names into her home, expressing fear of her newborn contracting the virus, she said. The tenant is of Chinese descent, said Sha, who lives in Great Neck.

Others, whether homeowners selling houses or clients seeking to buy, "want me to screen to make sure people didn’t come directly from China,” she said. A few days ago, the tenant with a newborn said she would start allowing Chinese buyers into her apartment, as long as they hadn't recently visited China, she said.

Sha said she believed she had been the victim of virus fears as well.

When she calls Uber or Lyft to show properties in Manhattan, “I notice that my wait times are a lot longer,” she said. “I suspect people are not picking me up because I use a Chinese name for these services. People are afraid that I carry the virus.”

With AP

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