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Here's How Chinese-Americans In The San Gabriel Valley Are Handling Coronavirus Concerns

Wen Yang Lu in his Monterey Park herbal medicine store. (Elly Yu/LAist)
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By Elly Yu, Yingjie Wang and Robert Garrova

The death toll in China from coronavirus is rising, Beijing has closed off cities that are home to more than 36 million people and public health officials are screening travelers from China as they arrive at LAX.

But there are still no confirmed cases in Los Angeles County, so people in the San Gabriel Valley -- which has one of the highest concentrations of Chinese-Americans in the country -- say they're concerned, but they aren't panicking.

Wen Yang Lu, 56, owns a Chinese herbal medicine store in a busy shopping plaza in Monterey Park. He said he's had customers come in worried about the virus, who buy supplements to help boost their immune systems. But overall, it's business as usual, Lu said.

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"I am worried, but no one here has been detected yet," he said. "The public health system here in Los Angeles and in the U.S. is comparatively good."

Yali Wang, 73, who works at an alterations store nearby, is also worried, but she hasn't changed any of her everyday routines, other than praying for officials to get the virus under control quickly.

"It sounds very serious from what I heard from the newspapers, so of course, we are very worried, because we are Chinese," she said. "Also, now it's the era of world village so whenever there is a serious disease, it's easy for it spread around the globe."


But the outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan still seems very distant for Wang.

"We haven't taken any protective measures here yet because it's relatively safe here in Los Angeles," she said.

But others, especially those who've been traveling by plane, have been wearing face masks just in case. We spoke with Wang Xue Mei, who recently flew in to LAX from Kansas to visit her daughter at UCLA.

"My daughter said the virus situation right now is very serious," said Wang, no relation to Yali Wang. "I don't know exactly what's happening but she told me to wear a mask to protect myself."

She said many of her fellow passengers on a shuttle from the airport did the same.

L.A. County public health officials have been urging the public to be cautious but not to be fearful of anyone arriving from China.

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"I don't see any panic at this point at all," said Felix Guo, who's co-hosted a morning talk show for 25 years on KAZN, a 24-hour Mandarin Chinese-language station that broadcasts in the L.A. area.

"Maybe one of the reasons is a sense of distance, that they [the Chinese American community] see this as something that's happening far away," he said.

KAZN is sponsoring an upcoming Lunar New Year Festival in Alhambra, which kicks off Feb. 1.

So far there have been no signs of decreased interest in the festival, Guo said. All of the vendors are still participating, and all of the performers are local, so organizers haven't had to deal with any travel issues.

But as a broadcaster, Guo said he's keeping his listeners informed of all the news coming out of Wuhan and surrounding cities in China.

"Our whole station, we are covering this closely," he said. "We are following minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour updates, but at the same time we are responsible for not causing any panic."