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B.C. man who unknowingly became face of coronavirus speaks out against misinformation

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A man from British Columbia is speaking out after an image of him wearing a surgical mask was posted online, falsely accusing him of spreading the novel coronavirus disease, officially known as COVID-19.

Jerry Guo, a Volkswagen salesperson living in Richmond, B.C., is of Chinese descent. Guo told Global News in an interview that he was dropping his girlfriend off at the Vancouver International Airport when the two of them were photographed wearing surgical masks.

The photo was later uploaded by an aggregate news website. The caption advised people to beware of Chinese travellers wearing masks because masks aren’t guaranteed to protect from COVID-19.

Initially, Guo said he took it lightly until one of his friends called him “famous” when his photo appeared on Richmond News.

“Honestly, at first, I was a little bit proud of myself,” Guo said. “I’ve never been on news before. So, you know, I was excited at that time.”

Then, he became concerned it would affect his job.

“They were using my picture as a cover of the news, and the news was not related to me; it’s related to the coronavirus case so it creates a misunderstanding for people,” he said.

Angry, Guo said he called his lawyer, who told him the best she could do was write a letter to the original poster and hope they take it down. Feeling like there was “no point” in doing that, he eventually had all of his friends report the photo and article in order to get it removed.

Guo’s case is not unique. As the virus spreads so, too, have racist and xenophobic comments targeting people of Chinese and Asian descent across the globe.

But Dr. Joseph Wong, a family physician who has been practising for the last 40 years in Toronto, said the fear and racism associated with COVID-19 is “unfounded.”

“The fear is not based on fact or evidence,” Wong said.

He said all viruses behave and spread in relatively similar ways regardless of race, mutating year after year, often determined by the place and time they come into contact with human beings rather than by the people themselves.

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