March 2, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Two major publications, the New York Times and the New York Post, featured images of Asian American residents in Flushing in their articles on the first confirmed Coronavirus case in the city — which a Manhattan woman contracted from Iran.
The use of the images of the largely-Asian community in the wrong borough comes after an increase in xenophobia toward Asian Americans amid the outbreak of the flu-like virus, which originated in China.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York City had its first confirmed case of novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, Sunday. A 39-year-old Manhattan health care worker who returned from Iran last Tuesday contracted the virus, which has taken root in that country.
The woman has respiratory symptoms, but her condition is mild, so she is being quarantined in her own home, Cuomo said. She has not taken any public transportation since returning and her spouse is also being isolated in their home, the governor added.
Queens elected officials condemned the Post for the use of the image featured in its article, which shows an Asian man wearing a mask on Main Street in Flushing, while the caption reads “First case of coronavirus confirmed in Manhattan.”
Several borough lawmakers who represent Flushing took to Twitter to show their contempt.
Assembly Member Ron Kim retweeted the Post’s story with the caption “Racist much?”
Racist much? https://t.co/DlcNmAi63G
— Ron T. Kim (@rontkim) March 2, 2020
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky called the oversight “troubling” and said it furthers the misconceptions about the virus that have been hurting her constituents.
Posting a picture of an Asian man in Flushing, Queens while reporting about a confirmed case in Manhattan is troubling. This does nothing but further the misconceptions that are hurting many people and businesses in my district. https://t.co/pakm9K2pol
— Toby Ann Stavisky (@tobystavisky) March 2, 2020
Council Member Peter Koo reminded people that viruses are colorblind.
This pic is Flushing, not Manhattan. A reminder: viruses are colorblind. https://t.co/XLfLbQ3jqz
— Peter Koo (@CMPeterKoo) March 2, 2020
However, the New York Times article on the first confirmed NYC case of the virus — which used a photo of two Asian women wearing masks as they walked along Main Street near the New World Mall in Flushing — received less attention.
Both articles have since been updated with new photos. The Post replaced its original photo of Flushing with one of Governor Andrew Cuomo on its homepage and the Times replaced its with a generic photo of Times Square.
While two people in Flushing hospitals were tested for COVID-19 last month, both tests came back negative.
However small businesses in the largely Asian American community are suffering. In February, the Flushing Chinese Business Association estimates business in the neighborhood has decreased by 40 percent because of fears about the outbreak.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson visited Flushing on Feb. 13 to dispel any fears and encourage New Yorkers to support small businesses owned by Asian Americans.
To date, there have been approximately 100 confirmed Coronavirus cases in the U.S. and about 90,000 cases and 3,000 deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The great majority of cases have been in China, where the virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan — but outbreaks in countries like Iran, Italy and South Korea have raised great alarm.