The term has been used by President Donald Trump and other Republican lawmakers.
In a March 19th letter to the president, Congresswoman Grace Meng, vice chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, wrote that she has warned the public and her colleagues to not single out the Asian-American community during the outbreak.
“There is already a rise in assault and bullying against the Asian-American community as a result of this inaccurate and dangerous attribution of COVID-19 to our community,” Meng wrote. “Additionally, your own health officials have deemed it inaccurate and harmful to associate a place to COVID-19.”
The Queens congresswoman urged Trump to ensure government officials, public officials and even those in the media to not perpetuate stereotypes or “discriminatory stigma” when describing the virus.
Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee, the first borough president of Asian descent in the city, said in a statement that the term is a “deeply consequential misnomer.”
“COVID-19 gives no one license to target, harass or assault anyone, but the term ‘Chinese virus’ provokes exactly that,” Lee said. “Calling it a ‘Chinese virus’ instead of the accurate term ‘COVID-19’ inflames racism, empowers sinophobia and resurrects ‘yellow peril’ perceptions that endangers Americans, including American citizens like myself.
“This is a shared war against a pandemic, as we all race together to stem the tide of COVID-19, triggering a war of words is the absolute last thing we need,” she added. “The virus does not discriminate, and as fellow Americans, neither should we.”
Councilman Peter Koo implored all public figures, as well as media outlets, to be “responsible distributors of information” and go by the World Health Organization’s name for the disease.
“Not only does trying to normalize the term ‘Chinese virus’ recklessly go against their official definition of the virus, but it inflames racial tensions at a time when Asians around the world are being discriminated against,” Koo said, “and even assaulted due to this very kind of misinformation.”
Steven Lee, a candidate for State Assembly, demanded an apology from Trump, and asked others to join him in resisting the use of the term.
He said to hear Trump use the term and then defend the label was “shocking and dismaying.”
“It is unscientific, un-American and a clear attack on our community,” Lee said. “The World Health Organization itself has said labeling a disease by region or ethnicity hinders containment efforts and promotes discrimination.”
Lee is currently seeking volunteers to form citizen street patrols in Flushing and Chinatown that will work with local precincts to combat acts of harrasment or violence against members of the Asian-American communities.
“We are making calls for volunteers for the block watch program to help deter attacks against our communities,” Lee said. “Volunteers will not be asked to engage the perpetrators or suspects, but to use the buddy system, film the acts, and call 911. Hours will be whatever time you wish to share with us.
“This is not a time for us to be swayed by agendas, either left or right,” he added. “This is a time for us to stand as a united force against ignorance, racism, and violence.”