According to a report from the renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine,  the novel coronavirus, formally known as Covid-19, has spread to 28 countries and regions since it was first identified in mainland China in December last year. Globally, it has now infected more than 73,000 people and killed more than 2,000 (at our press time), the vast majority still in mainland China.

Influenza, or “the flu,” and Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, are both infectious respiratory illnesses. Although the symptoms of Covid-19 and the flu can look similar, the two illnesses are caused by different viruses. And, the fact remains that although the coronavirus’ rapid spread and the number of people it already has killed in a very short time — who had ever even heard of it six months ago? — is frightening, the flu currently affects and kills 100-300 times more people (anywhere from 250,000 to nearly 650,000, depending upon whose numbers you use) every year, not just the last few months, the world over.

And, the fact remains that the easiest way to avoid getting either of these two potentially fatal illnesses is getting a flu shot and proper, frequent hand-washing, especially immediately after coming in contact with someone you suspect might have more than “just a cold.” 

No, considering how debilitating both the flu and Covid-19 can be, you’re not being rude if you’re not so quick to shake the hand of every stranger you come in contact with (much less want to stand near anyone who is sneezing, even if they say “It’s just my allergies”), especially when this year’s flu season continues to be such a doozy.

On the other hand, the recent worldwide backlash against people who appear to be Chinese to those of us who aren’t Asian (even though the majority of Americans don’t think people from China look any different than people from Thailand, Japan, Korea or Vietnam) makes no sense at all.

First of all, the World Health Organization and other governmental agencies around the world are tracking every known case of the coronavirus. Second, anyone who has been on a cruise ship or airplane from anywhere near the new illness’ epicenter of Wuhan, China, is being quarantined and then closely monitored for any sign of Covid-19. Third, absolutely no one is closely monitoring the more than 120,000 people of all races, religions and ethnic groups who have been hospitalized for the flu during the 2019-20 flu season, or the hundreds of thousands more who were treated by doctors without being hospitalized or the thousands more who somehow were able to beat back the disease without even seeing a doctor.

People getting sick enough to die from their illnesses during the cold and flu season isn’t a Chinese problem. This scary new malady may have started in one particular area of one particular country, but that doesn’t mean that anyone of Chinese or Asian descent, especially if they live anywhere but in the Hubei province of south central China, is any more likely to be afflicted with Covid-19 than you are, especially if they haven’t visited their native country since the virus started. 

Oh, and here in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel, we can rest a little bit easy (for now, at least) knowing that none of the few cases of Covid-19 that have been confirmed in the U.S. have found their way to Florida. 

But, I know there are a lot of seemingly normal people who are losing their minds over the coronavirus outbreak, just as they have over many other issues that don’t need to be debated here.

 But, when I read that Chinese restaurants from Australia to Florida have lost 20-70 percent of their usual business — or had to close their doors altogether — in the less than three months since the outbreak first hit, well, that’s where this lifetime Chinese food lover has to draw the line.

This isn’t the time for anti-Chinese sentiment, much less for hating Chinese-Americans or…Heaven help me, Chinese food. 

So, whether your favorite local Chinese restaurant is Liang’s Bistro, Ho King or my favorites — Fushia Asian Bistro here in Tampa Palms and Yummy House on E. Hillsborough Ave. — or any other, now is the time to do yourself and the family that owns that eatery a favor and get yourself some egg rolls and Yang Chow fried rice.

And, please tell them I sent you!  

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