Sammamish’s third annual Lunar New Year Celebration, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled after fears over the spread of coronavirus ground the event to a halt.
More than a dozen groups and organizations had planned to take part.
“All our performers and their parents were worried,” said Sammamish Chinese School Principal Jun Wang. “All the Chinese community is panicked.”
This year will be the first time in more than a decade the Sammamish Chinese School did not participate in a Lunar New Year celebration.
By Thursday night, less than 48 hours before Saturday’s expected festivities, roughly 80% of performers and vendors had pulled out, according to the city of Sammamish.
“The City isn’t concerned about a public health risk, but we wanted to respect and support the decisions of our participating community partners,” city spokesperson Kate Langsdorf said in an email.
Lunar New Year is one of the biggest celebrations on the Chinese calendar. The cancellation of Sammamish’s Lunar New Year event coincided with cancellations of major events in Beijing.
On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the spread of the coronavirus was “accelerating” and described the situation as “grave.” Nearly 2,000 cases and 56 deaths have been reported since mid-December, when the current outbreak began in Wuhan, China.
On Monday, a Snohomish County man who had recently traveled to Wuhan became the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the disease. He was in satisfactory condition Saturday, according to the Snohomish Health District.
While other Lunar New Year events in the Seattle area were held Saturday and more are scheduled for next two weekends, some events in Chicago were canceled due to similar fears. One of the three confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus was reported Friday in a Chicago woman who had also traveled to China.
Seattle’s Chinatown-International District will host a Lunar New Year Celebration on Feb. 8. The Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area was monitoring the situation, said spokesperson Connie Au-Yeung, but did not have plans to cancel. Au-Yeung said participants were excited, and she had not heard increased concern about coronavirus from the community.
Public health officials say people shouldn’t panic. Risk in the United States is lower than it is where the virus originated, according to Dr. Janet Baseman, epidemiologist and associate dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.
The World Health Organization has not declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
Initial symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath. It is not yet clear how easily this virus is spread from person to person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread among people by coughing and sneezing, close contact, such as touching or shaking hands, touching a surface with the virus on it then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands, according to the CDC.
The choice to cancel was a “very hard decision,” Wang said. But the Chinese community understands, according to Wang. “Everyone had the same feeling.”