Trump’s Efforts to Distract From Failed Coronavirus Response is Hurting AAPI Community

As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country and more than 125,000 Americans have died from the virus, Donald Trump’s efforts to distract from his catastrophic pandemic response with dog-whistle politics continues to hurt the AAPI community. Trump has knowingly and repeatedly trotted out dangerous rhetoric in a politically-charged attempt to stoke bigotry against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The resulting racism and anti-Asian sentiment has only further exacerbated the economic and health disparities being driven and worsened by the pandemic across AAPI communities. 

“Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen a disturbing spike in anti-Asian sentiment and hate attacks across the country — and Donald Trump has only added fuel to the fire, stoking the flames of xenophobia against AAPI communities in a blatant attempt to scapegoat us for his own failures of leadership and distract from his disastrous coronavirus response,” said AAPI Caucus Chair Bel Leong-Hong. “It’s the same page out of the old Trump playbook: he wants us pointing the finger at each other to sow division and deflect blame from himself. But while countless Asian-owned businesses have been left reeling from the pandemic and anti-Asian sentiment, AAPI nurses, doctors, and essential workers have been serving on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus. AAPI communities across the country are hurting, and we need moral leadership that will fight against bigotry, bring Americans together, and address the glaring economic and health disparities being inflamed by Trump’s failed pandemic response.”

Instead of showing leadership during the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly used the terms ‘kung flu’ and ‘Chinese virus’ to describe the coronavirus, which further incite violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Over the course of the pandemic, members of the AAPI community have faced a significant rise in hate attacks, including verbal abuse and physical assaults. 

  • Filipino nurses were some of the first people to die in states like NY, NJ, WA, CA, NV, IL, DC, MD, and FL, and much of it because of the lack of PPE
  • Reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic have skyrocketed to 100 per day
  • Hate crime incidents against Asian Americans have been reported in New York, Texas, California, and many other states
  • In New York, reports of anti-Asian discrimination spiked 92% in the months of February through April, as compared to last year 

While anti-Asian sentiment rises, AAPI-owned small businesses have been hit especially hard by the spread of coronavirus as they face the double burden of a stagnant economy combined with social stigma fueled by Trump’s reckless rhetoric. 

  • Chinatowns across the country are experiencing plummeting foot traffic, forcing some shops to close permanently while others have reported losing as much as 80% of their business
  • In New York City’s typically thriving Chinatown, some businesses have reported losses of up to 50% while some have been forced to close permanently

A lack of accurate, disaggregated data and in-language health information and resources has hampered efforts to better understand how the pandemic is impacting AAPI communities. But evidence suggests that the coronavirus is exacerbating underlying economic and health disparities among Asian Americans. 

  • In San Francisco, Asian Americans accounted for an alarming 52% of coronavirus deaths 
  • In South Dakota, Asian Americans accounted for 12% of cases despite being less than 2% of the population
  • Since the coronavirus crisis, 49% of Asian American households have experienced a loss of employment income, compared to 43% of white households 
  • Additionally, 28% of Asian American renters have little confidence they will be able to pay their next month’s rent, compared to 21% of white renters 
  • In New York, where unemployment filings are disaggregated by race, records show that AAPI unemployment rates have skyrocketed: As of May, New York has seen a nearly 5,500% increase in people of Asian descent filing for unemployment benefits since April.
  • The unemployment claims from last month went up for Blacks and AAPIs while going down for everyone else