We Love Chinatown Campaign events halted indefinitely as confirmed COVID-19 cases increase

By Anika Exum
Medill Reports

On Sunday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker mandated a moratorium on dining in at all restaurants and bars across Illinois. He also ordered Monday that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled, in line with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending people do so for the next eight weeks.

At the end of February, the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce reported a decrease between 20% and 50% in sales for local businesses in Chicago’s Chinatown due to the outbreak. With the virus reported to have originated in Wuhan, China, many Asian and Asian-American people across the country have also taken to social media, reporting personal experiences of racism rooted in ignorance surrounding the origins of the outbreak.

So, the US-China Restaurant Alliance’s “We Love Chinatown” campaign was launched on March 5 with the aim of combating this and misinformation surrounding COVID-19, as well as bringing back business to the historic district. However, with the quickening increase of confirmed positive cases across the US and Illinois, the US-China Restaurant Alliance has had to indefinitely postpone campaign events due to this and recent mandates by the state.

“Each [Chinatown] business has about an estimated 20 staff, so that’s an estimated 6,000 jobs and 6,000 families that are suffering,” said Tony Hu, Founder and President of the US-China Restaurant Alliance, at the Original Triple Crown restaurant launch event. “So, we are trying to promote Chinatown and support businesses.”

Back then, Hu hoped to bring business back to Chinatown for the good of many residents, workers and business owners through bi-weekly ticketed meals. But now, twelve days since the launch of the campaign, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois has skyrocketed to 105 after lingering in the 30s at the end of last week.

At the first dinner of the campaign however, many community leaders were present, including 25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Illinois 1st District State Senator Tony Munoz, and Chicago Chapter President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Ivy Lam. Each voiced the importance of unity during this time, as well as their love for Chinatown as longtime residents, neighbors and visitors.

Photo at top: Tony Hu, President and Founder of the US-China Restaurant Alliance, introduces community leaders and welcomes guests to the launch of the March 5 “We Love Chinatown” campaign. (Anika Exum/MEDILL)