WATCH: ABC13's 'COVID-19 and our Asian Community' town hall

HOUSTON, Texas -- As ABC13 Houston continues to chronicle the effects of COVID-19 across southeast Texas, Eyewitness News focused on how the pandemic has affected our Asian community in a one-hour virtual town hall Thursday night.

In observation of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, ABC13 reporter Miya Shay moderated a discussion highlighting the strain experienced by Asian-owned businesses, a marked increase in harassment and racism-related incidents against Asian people in Texas, and positive impacts the community is making in the fight against the coronavirus.

Panelists for the town hall included:
  • Houston Police Assistant Chief Henry Gaw
  • Debbie Chen, Houston restaurateur and programs director of OCA-Greater Houston, a civil rights organization advocating for the AAPI community
  • Chloe Dao, fashion designer and television personality
  • Paul Gor, Asian Chamber of Commerce Houston director of community services
  • Mustafa Tameez, president and founder of Outreach Strategists

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Asian American community has been affected in a number of ways. Many Asian-owned businesses suffered early because of fears that COVID-19 began in Asia," Shay said. "We have seen an uptick of anti-Asian racism. At the same time, AAPIs are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic. Many are our doctors and nurses, while others have donated millions of dollars worth of (personal protective equipment)."

"At ABC13, we are committed to elevating a conversation about the diverse people, places and ideas that make Houston a great place to live, and that story cannot be told without acknowledging the accomplishments of our AAPI community," said Brandon De Hoyos, KTRK-TV's director of community engagement. "As Houston's News Leader, we wanted to have a frank discussion about the unique challenges that have emerged from this emergency, and what people in the Asian community need to know to keep their families safe."

About 5.3 percent of Texans identify as Asian, while 7 percent of Houstonians are in the AAPI community, according to the U.S. Census.