Fiesta may have fewer medals this year if the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China keeps factories there shuttered for much longer.

“I don’t want to cause a massive panic, but it’s highly possible,” said Charlie Drago, owner of Monarch Trophy Studio, one of the largest local suppliers of medals every year for charities, politicians, businesses, and Fiesta royalty.

“They do come from China, and the Chinese factories are closed right now which is a mandate by the government,” he said. “They say they’re opening, but you never really know.”

Fiesta San Antonio, the 10-day festival celebrating the city’s cultural heritage, is just nine weeks away. Collecting, trading, and donning Fiesta medals are a prominent part of the celebrations.

Since late December, the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, has killed more than 1,000 people in that country and infected tens of thousands more around the world.  Chinese officials have locked down entire cities and restricted travel in an attempt to stop the spread of a virus that the Centers for Disease Control is now calling COVID-19.

Many factory workers, who had gone home to celebrate the Chinese New Year prior to the outbreak, are quarantined in their homes and villages so the factories cannot open.

China is the only source for medals, Drago said, and Monarch orders its custom-made medals from 30 different factories in China.

Drago said he spoke on the phone Wednesday morning with one of his medals suppliers in China who said he is quarantined in his house. “He can’t leave,” he said. “We need stuff from him, and he said we’re just going to have to see what happens.”

In the meantime, Monarch is continuing to take orders and design medals, but it is not guaranteeing delivery in time for Fiesta.

The company also has enough supply on hand of its express medals, which come in a variety of standard shapes, and are customized with a printed logo or image. Drago ordered those medals last summer. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the materials or any way to get them,” he said.

Drago’s last trip to visit suppliers in China was two years ago. Chinese cities, he said, are very densely populated, and that’s what is so scary about the spread of the virus.

“I know the whole world’s working on it,” he said of how long he thinks the virus will impact the people of China, their factories, and his business. “But we probably will see an effect [on medal supply] this year. It’s going to take longer to get the medals – if we can get them.”

The virus is disrupting supply chains around the world. At the World Trade Organization on Tuesday, China warned that overreacting to the coronavirus outbreak through trade restrictions could have a negative impact on the global economy.


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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.