Massachusetts' restaurant industry is reporting a "sudden and swift" decline in business at Chinese restaurants as a new virus has sickened tens of thousands of people, mostly in China.
The Massachusetts Restaurant Association said in a statement released late Friday that patrons are making "inaccurate correlations" between eating at the state's Chinese establishments and the spread of the new coronavirus, which the World Health Organization on Tuesday officially dubbed COVID-19.
Massachusetts has had one confirmed case of the virus, a University of Massachusetts Boston student who recently returned from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.
State health officials have said the patient, who is in his 20s, is recovering at home, where he has been kept in isolation.
Bob Luz, the restaurant association's president and CEO, noted that all restaurants in Massachusetts "regardless of the ethnic origin of its owners" are required to meet the state's exacting health and food safety standards.
He encouraged people to continue patronizing local Chinese restaurants in a show of support.
"It is imperative to understand that while anxieties may be high, we should not target any one group, or operate in a climate of fear that is not based on facts," Lutz said in the statement.