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How people are celebrating Lunar New Year differently amid coronavirus pandemic

Lunar New Years' is usually a time to gather, but this year will look very different due to the COVID-19 pandemic as some groups plan to celebrate virtually.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Throughout the country, people could be wondering why they hear loud, popping noises. It might be neighbors ushering in the Lunar New Year with firecrackers. 

Amid stacks of red envelopes, garlands of red and gold lanterns, there is a feeling of celebration in the air at T&M Floral and Gifts on Stockton Boulevard. After a tough year, Tony Nguyen, the owner, said he's grateful of community members are supporting his business as they celebrate at home. 

"They don't buy a lot, but more people come in," Nguyen said. "It surprised me." 

Nguyen plans to cast any anxiety aside to start the new year off on the right foot by focusing on good health and fortune for his family and community.

Lunar New Years' is usually a time to gather, but this year will look very different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities are eager to connect although the year of the Ox won't be welcomed by big festivals.

The Chinese New Year Culture Association is celebrating its 23rd festival virtually. They are saying goodbye to 2020, which is the year that brought COVID-19 and even racist violence against Asian Americans. 

Credit: Asian Resources, INC

Recent attacks on elderly Asian Americans in the Bay Area have Asian communities worried. 

Police in the San Francisco Bay Area are stepping up patrols and volunteers are increasing their street presence after several violent attacks on older Asians stoked fear and subdued the celebratory mood leading up to Lunar New Year. 

"It's a little fear, but those attacks haven't really happened in Sacramento. So I'm glad, but I feel bad for those in the Bay Area," Nguyen said. "It hasn't happened here yet"

City officials have visited Chinatowns in San Francisco and Oakland this week to address residents’ safety concerns and condemn the violence as the holiday starts Friday. They vowed to combat a problem that's been simmering since the start of the coronavirus pandemic but sparked new outrage after two unprovoked attacks were caught on video within a span of days and spread widely online.

Jane Liang, with the Elk Grove Chinese Association, told ABC10 there is a lot of fear within the community but it won't stop them from sharing their culture. 

"We are American," Liang said. "We do not agree with this kind of thing. This is a small minority." 

Pho Bac Hoa Vie owner said he plans to light firecrackers outside of his restaurant on Friday to ward of evil spirits and COVID-19. 

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