Senator Kamala Harris last week introduced a resolution condemning the use of the phrase “Wuhan virus” to refer to SARS-CoV-2, the deadly coronavirus that has spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan across the globe, as racist.
Harris introduced the resolution on Thursday, joined by fellow Democratic senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. It aims to “condemn and denounce anti-Asian sentiment, racism, discrimination, and religious intolerance” related to the coronavirus, and specifically cites phrases such as “Wuhan virus,” “Chinese virus,” and “Kung-flu.” It also calls on federal officials to “expeditiously investigate and document” credible reports of hate crimes or threats against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities and “investigate and prosecute perpetrators” if necessary.
President Trump briefly referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” defending his use of the term by saying “it comes from China,” but later backed away from the phrase after reports of an uptick in violence against Asian Americans.
“Look, everyone knows it came out of China, but I decided we shouldn’t make any more of a big deal out of it,” Trump said in early March.
“Inflammatory and racist rhetoric from officials at the highest level of our government has contributed to a disturbing rise in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans,” Hirono said last month when announcing plans to introduce the resolution.
The coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan late last year and is thought to have passed from bats to humans through the city’s “wet markets.” Since then, it has spread to at least 177 countries and infected more than 4.9 million people globally. As of Wednesday afternoon, at least 324,900 people have died after contracting it.