Gov. Polis visits Asian businesses in Denver as coronavirus concerns spread

The governor ate lunch at a restaurant that recently told us it’s lost business because people are scared of the virus.

Gov. Jared Polis (center, in the blue shoes) walks down a shopping center during a tour of Asian businesses on Monday, March 2, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Gov. Jared Polis (center, in the blue shoes) walks down a shopping center during a tour of Asian businesses on Monday, March 2, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis visited several Asian businesses along Federal Boulevard as concerns over the coronavirus continue affecting storefronts along the busy corridor.

Last week, several Asian-owned businesses told Denverite they noticed a drop in customers, which they attributed to worries over the coronavirus. There are no known cases of the virus in Colorado.

Polis said it was important to show solidarity with Asian-owned businesses in the state and avoid stereotyping.

“It’s important in the face of coronavirus that Coloradans don’t take it out on any Asian-American Coloradans or Asian-owned businesses,” Polis said.

The worries are prompting people to stock up on rice in case they need to stay home for long periods of time, which is depleting local stock, according to Denver police chaplain and community leader Rev. Joseph Dang. Dang led a tour of storefronts with Polis and Colorado Asian Chamber of Commerce members.

Gov. Jared Polis (left) orders boba at Lollicup with Denver police Chaplain Rev. Joseph Dang on Monday, March 3, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Gov. Jared Polis (left) orders boba at Lollicup with Denver police Chaplain Rev. Joseph Dang on Monday, March 3, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

“The very first thing that caught (my attention) was the rice,” Dang said. “This morning, my mom said, ‘You need to buy three bags of rice.'”

Travis Tom, chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors, called Polis’s support “huge” for Asian-owned businesses.

“We’re happy for his support to Asian-owned businesses to show the public at large that we don’t have any cases confirmed here in Colorado. Don’t avoid (the businesses), be aware, keep going to Asian-owned businesses,” Tom said.

The governor’s office said the meeting and tour were planned as general community outreach, part of Polis’s efforts to hear from different communities. But the virus, which has killed at least 3,000 people worldwide, quickly became the focus of Monday’s tour.

Before visiting storefronts, Polis dined at Star Kitchen, a dim sum and seafood restaurant whose owner told Denverite last week that it was seeing fewer customers due to coronavirus concerns.

Polis said the state has an emergency response system in place for outbreaks, which includes places for people to be quarantined. He was on a conference call with other governors hosted by Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House’s response to the virus, on Monday morning that focused on preparedness.

Polis said the state’s greatest need at the moment is for help with preparation. He said he planned on speaking Monday to the state’s congressional delegation about providing additional federal money to Colorado.

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