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The coronavirus pandemic may have been the last straw for the struggling J.C. Penney company. Wochit

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With 846 stores and 85,000 employees, J.C. Penney could be the largest symbol of what COVID-19 may mean for retailers already struggling for survival. 

The department store chain filed for bankruptcy Friday and is asking a federal judge to ize the rejection of 20 leases in the opening salvo of the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company said it plans to "accelerate" permanent store closings as part of its bankruptcy but declined to provide details on which locations it plans to shutter.

The move sets in motion the process of beginning permanent store closings as the retailer aims to stabilize its finances and avoid outright liquidation – a fate that chains such as Papyrus, Modell’s Sporting Goods and Art Van Furniture haven't been able to avoid.