Coronavirus fears touch Eugene economically, socially

The disease is causing ripples through the Eugene area.

Posted: Feb 14, 2020 6:40 PM
Updated: Mar 10, 2020 4:25 PM

EUGENE, Ore.-- There were more than 64,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide with another case confirmed in the United States on Friday. Though no cases of coronavirus have been reported in the State of Oregon, the disease is causing ripples impacting the Eugene area.

Area businesses keep an eye on supply chains

Many in China's workforce are quarantined as coronavirus spreads. With many factories at a standstill, area manufacturers and retailers are keeping an eye on their supply of Chinese goods. 

According to Eric Nill, his solar panel installation business, Advanced Energy Systems, could eventually be impacted. 

"We aren't being picked on as an individual business, so we gotta roll with the market we are confronting, but it may cause an incremental bump in pricing," he said.

According to Nill, China is responsible for the production of half of the world's solar panels. Additionally, many solar panel components come from Chinese factories, meaning that slowed production could eventually lead to scarcity and rising prices. 

"There's probably a six-month buffer before it gets real tight, but if this disease issue goes on longer than a month or two it could really be compressing that demand," he said.

Nill thinks it's still unclear if consumers or businesses could absorb potentially rising costs.

Oregon-based sportswear giant Nike Inc. is facing different coronavirus-related issues as they temporarily close nearly half of it's Chinese retail stores in response to the virus.

Families put a hold on China-based adoptions

As Chinese authorities attempt to control the spread of coronavirus, Eugene-based child welfare agency Holt International has delayed adoption trips to the country. 

About 10 families had tickets to go to China to meet the newest members of their family when the hold was put in place. One family was from Oregon.

"I talked with a mother yesterday who said, 'Two days ago I would be on the plane and today I would be holding my son for the first time," said Susan Soon-Keum Cox. "They are extremely comforted by the fact that the children are OK."

She said the agency is working closely with Chinese orphanages to ensure that all of the children are insulated from the disease. They have also launched a crowdfunding campaign to assist with supplies for the facilities.

"The thing we can do on our side is to make sure that the families are supported and that we are doing everything we can to make sure that they know that when they can, they will be going over to bring their sons and daughters home," Cox said.

Asain community says coronavirus fuels xenophobia

Preparation for the 35th annual Asian Celebration this weekend comes at a time when organizers say many in the Asian community are witnessing growing xenophobia as a result of coronavirus.

Asian Celebration director David Tam said that he was recently on a plane wearing a facemask when he noticed people staring worriedly.

"Just because you are Asian and have a cough doesn't mean that you are sick," he said. "A lot of people have influenza. It could be as simple as that. But just to assume because of the color of their skin or the way they look, that's quite unfortunate."

Tam also said the community has witnessed hateful speech online and comments at Asian-owned businesses.

Around 15,000 people are expected to come to the celebration over the weekend. Tam said he would not be surprised if some misinformed people avoid the event out of fear of the disease.

"It is a serious issue," Tam said. "Coronavirus is a serious topic and we respect everyone's opinion on it. But the fact of the matter is that it affects anybody and everybody and it's not just Asian people in general."

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