GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (KABC) -- Small business owners in Orange County's nail salon industry joined local government and law enforcement leaders at a press conference Thursday, to stand against an increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Linda Nguyen remembered feeling under attack in her home of 40 years. She was at an Orange County Target in March 2020, waiting in line. The couple behind her coughed.
"Then they said, 'Stay away from her. She has coronavirus,'" Nguyen said. Though the incident was not physically violent, Nguyen felt the pain.
"It was emotionally painful and it was embarrassing. I went in my car and cried for 45 minutes, just in shock, and couldn't believe that it happened to me," Nguyen said.
RELATED | Orange County congresswomen introduce resolution condemning anti-Asian hate crimes
Nguyen's contributions to her home county are invaluable. As the executive vice president of the 360 Clinic, she helps run COVID-19 testing at OC's two super sites.
The county's Asian-American community has contributed greatly in the battle against the virus. Small business owners, led by leaders in the nail salon profession, donated personal protective equipment, time and meals to health care workers on the front line as the pandemic devastated their industry.
Then, another hit: Hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are up during the pandemic. Elders are usually the targets of these sometimes-violent acts.
RELATED | Police investigating after Asian man stabbed in back in NYC's Chinatown
According to the operations manager of OC Human Relations, Don Han, this surge began in January 2020. "So far, we have a raw number of 40 cases. That's 10 times higher than the previous year," Han said.
Together with local government and law enforcement leaders, these entrepreneurs and community advocates want the victims of this discrimination to know they're not alone.
Nailing It For America's co-founder, Christie Nguyen, gave a message to her Vietnamese community, then translated in English.
"That means never again will you be alone," Nguyen said. "And to our aunts and uncles throughout the community, you will never, ever be alone again. We will stand with you through thick and thin."
Speakers at the press conference emphasized the importance of reporting these crimes to law enforcement, not just for victims, but also for allies.