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Coronavirus rumor leads to loss of business for Chinatown supermarket

HOUSTON – The JUSGO Supermarket was open for business despite rumors that an employee at the store had come down with the novel coronavirus.

The misinformation began making its rounds on social media.

The first rumored tweet read: “UMMM HEY YALL, I work a HomeHealth Agency and we just had a meeting about the #coronavirus and Houston officially has a case here on the Bellaire area by Chinatown, JUSGO Supermarket has closed down, seems like that where it started. Be Careful.”

The supermarket’s general manager Ken Chen said the tweet caused problems for the store.

“We are pretty upset. She just spread (that) out (of) nowhere, no facts, no nothing. The business is open. We never got closed down,” Chen said.

Chen said the concerned customers were avoiding the store, which was taking a toll on business.

"I don't think it's right. It affects our supermarket, it affects Chinatown business and everybody gets scared," Chen said.

Chen said the rumors were hurtful, despite that his store is doing what they can to help people in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated from.

Chen said they’ve set up a donation box to raise money for masks and medical supplies, which will eventually be sent to China.

KPRC 2 reached out to the Houston Health Department about the rumors. A spokesman for the Health Department said there are no confirmed cases of the virus in the city and no reason to avoid any business.

“Anytime there’s misinformation or rumors it’s unfortunate. It’s extra unfortunate when they’re directed at a particular community. In this case, it seems to be the Chinese community,” said Scott Packard, a spokesman for the Houston Health Department.

Packard would not comment on suspected cases in the Houston area. He said it was the health department’s standard procedure to avoid commenting on suspected cases because it leads to misinformation.