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Coronavirus threatens a Minnesota farm town’s economic engine
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WORTHINGTON, Minn.—Miguel Rivas emigrated from El Salvador to this ethnic melting pot in the middle of farm country 21 years ago, starting out at a meatpacking plant and a dairy farm, while studying computers online. He eventually opened a computer repair shop and cellphone store.
As the coronavirus hit this spring, business stayed fairly brisk, he said, until the hulking JBS USA Holdings meatpacking plant on the edge of town shut down April 20 amid a massive outbreak of Covid-19. Mr. Rivas’s business fell off by 90%.
“One day everybody was walking in with face masks,” said Mr. Rivas, 39 years old. “They said, ‘This is very serious. There are people that are very sick at home.’” Then they stopped coming altogether.
CORONAVIRUS CASES CAUSE THIRD JBS MEAT PACKING FACILITY TO CLOSE
For years, the JBS pork processing facility has been the economic engine that helped turn the sleepy farming community about three hours southwest of Minneapolis into a thriving multiethnic enclave. Twelve different cultures are represented here and minorities now outnumber non-Hispanic white residents. More than 40 ethnic businesses operate in the city of 13,000. Mexican and Asian grocery stores, hole-in-the-wall taco joints and margarita bars line 10th Street downtown.
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