“It is dangerous for him to continue calling it the Chinese coronavirus,” Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat and the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, told CNN’s Victor Blackwell on Saturday. “He is creating more xenophobia every single time he does that. And we can see the results in what’s happening to Asian Americans across this country.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
While Trump began using the term during news briefings on coronavirus this month — and the incidents mentioned by Chu date to as early as the beginning of February — some Republican lawmakers and administration officials earlier referred to Covid-19 as the “Chinese coronavirus,” “the Chinese virus,” or “the Wuhan virus” after the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the official terminology for the virus.
The President has defended his use of the term, denying it’s racist or stigmatizing.
“It’s not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate,” Trump said on Wednesday.
“China was putting out information, which was false, that our military gave this to them. That was false. And rather than having an argument, I said I had to call it where it came from. It did come from China. So, I think it’s a very accurate term,” Trump said Tuesday, adding, “I think saying that our military gave it to them creates a stigma.”
WHO announced on February 11 that it would be referring to the novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan, China, as Covid-19.
“Some people are worried about the disease. Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma, for example, towards Chinese or other Asian Americans or people who were in quarantine,” the CDC website says.
The website adds that stigma “is associated with a lack of knowledge” about how Covid-19 spreads, “a need to blame someone, fears about disease and death, and gossip that spreads rumors and myths.”
The CDC’s advice to help stop stigma: “Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop stigma.”
The organization acknowledged that the name “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome,” or MERS, “has had unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities or economic sectors.”
“This may seem like a trivial issue to some, but disease names really do matter to the people who are directly affected,” Dr Keiji Fukuda, the then-assistant director-general for WHO’s health security, said in a statement at the time.
CNN’s Natasha Chen, Steven Jiang, Betsy Klein, Dushyant Nares, Maegan Vazquez, Ben Westcott and Holly Yan contributed to this report.