The Spokane Chinese Association made the difficult decision to cancel its Lunar New Year festivities after a number of community members raised concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s a big, hard, painful decision for us,” said Spokane Chinese Association President Ping Ping.
More than 1,300 people have been infected with coronavirus, leading to 56 deaths, since the outbreak began in December in Wuhan, China, the New York Times reported. It’s led to school closures and travel restrictions in China.
The first case in the U.S. was confirmed in Snohomish County on Tuesday in a man who had just returned from Wuhan.
Ping said a community member raised concerns to the Spokane Chinese Association board on Tuesday about potential public health concerns related to the Snohomish County case. Ping said some people in Spokane’s Chinese American community have relatives in China who are working in hospitals responding to the outbreak but are otherwise unaffected.
Ping said she spoke Wednesday with a Centers for Disease Control official who assured her there was no public health concern. But on Friday, with community members continuing to remain concerned about the virus, Ping said eight of nine board members voted to cancel the event.
“We think this is good for public health,” said Ping, who thought the atmosphere at the celebration might have been somber if it continued as scheduled. “It’s a wise decision.”
Organizers of a similar celebration on Saturday in Sammamish also canceled due to concerns about the virus, but other Seattle-area lunar events continued as scheduled, the Seattle Times reported.
The event scheduled to take place at University High School was to include a cultural fair, calligraphy demonstrations, music and dance performances and, for the first time, storytelling. The event drew several hundred people last year at a smaller location.
Ping said around 70 people showed up to the high school on Saturday after her organization did its best to notify people about the cancellation Friday night.
“We can tell they’re disappointed,” Ping said of people who came to the school, as well as others who commented on social media.
Ping said she hopes to reschedule the Spokane event for after the coronavirus outbreak’s projected peak in March.
“Hopefully we can do it in the springtime,” Ping said.
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