As San Francisco prepares for its Chinese New Year parade this weekend, city officials on Thursday announced measures being taken this year to help keep event-goers safe.
The Department of Emergency Management said it will have extra staff at the parade site, as well as in their dispatch center, ready to take calls in the event of an emergency.
"If anyone needs a police officer, a firefighter, or a medical ambulance, you should call 911," said Mary Carol Ellen, DEM director.
"It does not matter if you do not speak English, simply state the language you speak or the dialect, and we'll be able to connect you with a translator so we can provide service," she said.
Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said his deputies will be on hand, coordinating with San Francisco Police Department officers to help keep people safe.
"Everyone should be reassured that we are safe and prepared in dealing with anything that should arise," he said.
Police Chief William Scott said the department will have "robust staffing" this weekend during celebrations. However, he also urged members of the Chinese community to be aware of scams, like the all too popular blessings ploy.
"We want to remind everyone, including our merchants and residents, that you have to be vigilant," he said. "Be aware when strangers ask for money or jewelry. Don't follow strangers anywhere. Don't bring strangers into your home and don't bring a stranger with you when you withdraw money or take out valuables from your safety deposit box, if you have one, or from your home."
Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson urged revelers to refrain this weekend from using fireworks, which are illegal in the city.
"We know we always see a lot of fireworks around Chinese New Year," she said. "Every year we see fires that are caused by fireworks from small to large, and injuries that are caused by fireworks. So please, be safe and keep your communities and your community members safe."
In response to allegations of xenophobia and discrimination toward the Chinese community following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, city leaders stressed that the risk of contracting the virus remains low.
"Certainly there's more chance of you catching the flu more than anything else," said Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee.
"Sometimes we create fear, and sometimes it's rightfully so, but... the creation of this fear is unfounded," he said. "These are not the values of San Francisco, especially when you portray a whole group of people as contagious."
Department of Public Health Director Grant Colfax reminded residents that although there have been six confirmed cases statewide, including two in the Bay Area, "At this time there is no newly diagnosed case of coronavirus in San Francisco."
"I would say to follow the standard flu precautions," he said, such as washing hands, covering coughs and getting a flu shot.
He added that event-goers shouldn't worry about wearing masks or bringing children to the parade because of the virus.
The San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade, celebrating the year of the rat, kicks off Saturday starting at 5:15 p.m. at Second and Market streets.
Several street closures throughout downtown and Chinatown will be in effect and attendees are being encouraged to take public transportation.