NYC small business chief Gregg Bishop: Coronavirus fears hit Chinatown

Medical staff check a patient’s condition at a temporary hospital converted from “Wuhan Livingroom” in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, Feb. 10, 2020.

Xiong Qi | Xinhua | Getty Images

Small businesses located in New York City’s Chinatown are losing customers over “unfounded” coronavirus fears, the city’s small business chief told CNBC on Thursday.

“Business owners are telling us revenues are down 40% in Chinatown,” said Gregg Bishop, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Small Business Services.

“Consumers should not be afraid to go to Chinatowns across cities and support small businesses,” he added on “Squawk Box.”

The United States has confirmed 14 coronavirus cases across the United States.

Though New York City has steered clear so far: The seven people suspected of having COVID-19 in the area tested negative for the virus, city health officials said Wednesday.

Health officials around the world are racing to stop transmission of the new virus, which was discovered Dec. 31 in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province.

China on Thursday, local time, said it has confirmed 59,804 coronavirus cases and 1,367 deaths related to the new, deadly strain of coronavirus, most of them occurring in Hubei province. The methodology for diagnosing coronavirus has not been changed in any Chinese provinces or municipalities except for Hubei, a Shanghai Health Commission spokeswoman said.

The World Health Organization said there’s been more than 150 coronavirus cases in about two dozen countries outside of China and declared the virus a global health emergency.

However, coronavirus misinformation is rampant, as little is known about the virus. Part of that is due to China’s lack of transparency, Bishop said.

“What we’re talking about here with the misinformation or lack of transparency is adding to the unfounded fears here in New York City,” he said. “Business owners are hurting.”

China has brushed aside help from global forces to stop the virus, including offers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to study the outbreak. U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told CNBC on Wednesday that the group is “locked and loaded to respond.”

After the deadly SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, in which China withheld information, Beijing has vowed to combat outbreaks differently. However, much is still unknown about the disease, as global health officials try to gain access to the nation.

“There’s just so much uncertainty because [Chinese residents] don’t know the info coming from the government, what’s real, what’s not, what are the numbers,” said James McGregor, chairman of APCO Worldwide’s greater China region. He appeared with Bishop on “Squawk Box” on Thursday.

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