Coronavirus News: COVID-19 fears take toll on Chinatown restaurants, farms that supply them

ByCeFaan Kim and Eyewitness News via WABC logo
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
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Acres of fields on one New Jersey farm lie empty, with no one to harvest the produce as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Acres of fields on one New Jersey farm lie empty, with no one to harvest the produce as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

One particular farm in Jobstown grows specific ingredients used for cooking Chinese food.

In the past, fields were harvested, and the produce was shipped an hour and a half away to Chinatown and other Chinese restaurants across the city.

The crops on the farm are harvested by migrant workers who travel 75 miles to work on the fields. The workers would usually stay overnight in one of the farm's dormitories.

Since the start of the outbreak, these workers are afraid of getting sick and have simply stopped showing up.

"They live in dormitory conditions when they do the harvest or planting," community activist Karlin Chan said. "So the fear of this virus is really big among them because they live in communal housing."

It is even impacting Chinese restaurants' takeout and delivery businesses that seem built for these times.

The virus that impacted the community first when it arrived in New York continues to punish it, and COVID-19 is far from finished inflicting pain there.

Chinese businesses known for rarely closing are now shut down everywhere you look, and some say an easing of restrictions -- whenever it comes -- may already be too late.

"At this point, there are quite a few Chinese restaurants that are not going to reopen," Chan said. "Because, you know, Chinese restaurants, people, because of xenophobia and everything, people have been avoiding Asian and Chinese businesses. So in Chinatown, here, we've been suffering this isolation since early January."

And it threatens to wipe out businesses from Chinatown to farms in New Jersey.

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