N.Y.C. businesses are now freed of most restrictions, but many indicate they will only return to normal gradually.

New York City businesses, and the workers who make them run, have had to navigate shifting regulations from the city and state since the start of the pandemic. For many of those businesses, the struggle for safety was paired with the struggle for solvency.

Most of those regulations came to an end on Wednesday, when the state removed most capacity restrictions from businesses statewide and adopted federal guidelines that allow people who have been vaccinated to largely eschew masks, indoors and out, in most situations.

The reaction from many city dwellers was cautious, after more than a year in which the city’s known virus death toll climbed to more than 33,000 people. Workers at many businesses around the five boroughs expressed similar reluctance to leap back into normal behavior.

Chris Polanco, 32, a clerk at Melrose Hardware in the Bronx, said he will keep his mask and the plastic curtain in front of the cash register, and would continue asking people to mask up in his store, offering masks to people who do not have them.

areas in the country.

Irene DeBenedittis owns Leo’s Latticini, an Italian deli there. She said that even though she and her staff had been vaccinated she planned to keep requiring masks, as a courtesy and a precaution.

“I am a bit confused about the rules, and also concerned about the customer,” Ms. DeBenedittis said. “For now, we are keeping the mask on so we feel safe and our customers feel safe too.”

Representatives for far larger groups of workers also said they planned to move slowly.

Robert W. Newell Jr., the president of a union that represents 17,000 workers, mainly in supermarkets and food production, said, “I’ve asked everyone to keep their masks on, at least for another couple of weeks.”

Vaccine passports” like New York State’s Excelsior Pass are not widely in use, and many consider a vaccine honor code flimsy. Even if proof of vaccination is bolstered somehow, it may be harder for individual business owners to enforce mask rules when they are no longer universal.

Rebecca Robertson, executive director of the Park Avenue Armory, said the indoor performance venue would retain its strict masking policy for Wednesday’s opening night performance of “Afterwardsness,” a modern dance piece in which patrons sit nine feet apart.

The venue plans to continue to require all audience members to wear masks for the foreseeable future.

Ms. Robertson noted that the state continues to strongly recommend masking when a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people are together indoors, which to her is just a shade below a requirement.

“If the government says to you it is strongly recommended, for us it’s like a mandate,” Ms. Robertson said.

Not all businesses were so hesitant — some have spurned the rules for much of the pandemic.

One of them is Mac’s Public House, a Staten Island tavern that became a symbol of much of the borough’s defiance to virus regulations when it refused to follow the governor’s curfew and indoor dining bans last year.

was arrested twice, and the bar was finally closed down.

On Wednesday Mr. Presti seethed as nearby restaurants and bars reopened while Mac’s remained padlocked.

“It’s frustrating,” Mr. Presti said. “It’s not like I was this lifelong criminal, it was all for businesses, bringing attention to the situation.”

Nate Schweber, Sharon Otterman, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura and Sadef Ali Kully contributed reporting.

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Taiwan Reports a Daily Record of 180 Cases

Taiwan, which has had remarkable success in containing the coronavirus, raised restrictions for its main city to their highest level since the start of the pandemic on Saturday, after reporting a daily record of 180 new locally transmitted infections.

Taiwan’s current outbreak — its worst yet by far — began in late April with a cluster in airline workers. Saturday’s caseload represented more than half of the 344 locally transmitted cases that the self-governing island has recorded during the entire pandemic.

The Taiwanese premier, Su Tseng-chang, and other officials told reporters on Saturday that masks and other medical supplies to fight the outbreak were plentiful. Mr. Su urged Taiwanese to be “obedient, helpful and protect yourselves, your families, all of society and our country.”

The government raised the restrictions in the city of Taipei to Level 3 out of 4, still short of a full lockdown. Even so, the announcements sent a shiver of anxiety through Taipei, and some residents filed into supermarkets to stock up on food, toilet paper and other essentials.

control a fourth wave of coronavirus infections and has cast further doubt on Japan’s ability to safely host the Tokyo Summer Olympics in July. Only about three percent of Japan’s 126 million people have received a first shot of a coronavirus vaccine. Taro Kono, the cabinet minister in charge of vaccinations, this week blamed the slow pace in part on the country’s strict drug approval system.

  • China’s sports administration is putting an end to attempts to climb Mount Everest from its north face this spring, citing concern about the coronavirus, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday. The agency said there was a need to “ensure absolutely no missteps,” apparently reflecting worries that climbers in Nepal, where infections are surging, could bring the virus to the top of the world’s highest mountain from the other side. The announcement came a few days after the authorities in Tibet, a region of China, said they would enforce a “zero contact strategy” to ensure there were no transmissions from climbers on the Nepal side of the mountain, which is called Chomolungma in Tibetan. Xinhua said 21 Chinese climbers had previously been given permission to try for the peak this season.

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The Lure of H Mart, Where the Shelves Can Seem as Wide as Asia

At the H Mart on Broadway at 110th Street in Manhattan, the lights are bright on the singo pears, round as apples and kept snug in white mesh, so their skin won’t bruise. Here are radishes in hot pink and winter white, gnarled ginseng grown in Wisconsin, broad perilla leaves with notched edges, and almost every kind of Asian green: yu choy, bok choy, ong choy, hon choy, aa choy, wawa choy, gai lan, sook got.

The theme is abundance — chiles from fat little thumbs to witchy fingers, bulk bins of fish balls, live lobsters brooding in blue tanks, a library of tofu. Cuckoo rice cookers gleam from the shelves like a showroom of Aston Martins. Customers fill baskets with wands of lemongrass, dried silvery anchovies, shrimp chips and Wagyu beef sliced into delicate petals.

For decades in America, this kind of shopping was a pilgrimage. Asian-Americans couldn’t just pop into the local Kroger or Piggly Wiggly for a bottle of fish sauce. To make the foods of their heritage, they often had to seek out the lone Asian grocery in town, which was salvation — even if cramped and dingy, with scuffed linoleum underfoot and bags of rice slumped in a corner.

1.5 percent of the American population was of Asian descent.

beaten to death in Detroit by two white autoworkers who were reportedly angered by the success of the Japanese car industry. Asian-Americans, a disparate group of many origins that had historically not been recognized as a political force, came together to condemn the killing and speak in a collective voice.

Today, as they again confront hate-fueled violence, Asian-Americans are the nation’s fastest-growing racial or ethnic group, numbering more than 22 million, nearly 7 percent of the total population. And there are 102 H Marts across the land, with vast refrigerated cases devoted to kimchi and banchan, the side dishes essential to any Korean meal. In 2020, the company reported $1.5 billion in sales. Later this year, it’s set to open its largest outpost yet, in a space in Orlando, Fla., that is nearly the size of four football fields.

And H Mart has competition: Other grocery chains that specialize in ingredients from Asia include Patel Brothers (Patel Bros, to fans), founded in Chicago; and, headquartered in California, Mitsuwa Marketplace and 99 Ranch Market — or Ranch 99, as Chinese speakers sometimes call it. They’re part of a so-called ethnic or international supermarket sector estimated to be worth $46.1 billion, a small but growing percentage of the more than $653 billion American grocery industry.

Japanese Breakfast, in her new memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” published last month. The book begins with her standing in front of the banchan refrigerators, mourning the death of her Korean-born mother. “We’re all searching for a piece of home, or a piece of ourselves.”

As the 20th-century philosopher Lin Yutang wrote, “What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?”

For an immigrant, cooking can be a way to anchor yourself in a world suddenly askew. There is no end to the lengths some might go to taste once more that birthday spoonful of Korean miyeok guk, a soup dense with seaweed, slippery on the tongue, or the faintly bitter undertow of beef bile in Laotian laap diip (raw beef salad).

When Vilailuck Teigen — the co-author, with Garrett Snyder, of “The Pepper Thai Cookbook,” out in April — was a young mother in western Utah in the 1980s, she ordered 50-pound bags of rice by mail and drove 150 miles to Salt Lake City to buy chiles. She had no mortar and pestle, so she crushed spices with the bottom of a fish-sauce bottle.

Snackboxe Bistro in Atlanta, was a child in a small town in east-central Alabama, where her family settled after fleeing Laos as refugees. They fermented their own fish sauce, and her father made a weekly trek to Atlanta to pick up lemongrass and galangal at the international farmers’ market.

The essayist Jay Caspian Kang has described Americans of Asian descent as “the loneliest Americans.” Even after the government eased restrictions on immigration from Asia in 1965, being an Asian-American outside major cities often meant living in isolation — the only Asian family in town, the only Asian child at school. A grocery store could be a lifeline.

When the writer Jenny Han, 40, was growing up in Richmond, Va., in the ’90s, her family shopped at the hole-in-the-wall Oriental Market, run by a woman at their church. It was the one place where they could load up on toasted sesame oil and rent VHS tapes of Korean dramas, waiting to pounce when someone returned a missing episode.

A few states away, the future YouTube cooking star Emily Kim — better known as Maangchi — was newly arrived in Columbia, Mo., with a stash of meju, bricks of dried soybean paste, hidden at the bottom of her bag. She was worried that in her new American home she wouldn’t be able to find such essentials.

Then she stumbled on a tiny shop, also called Oriental Market. One day the Korean woman at the counter invited her to stay for a bowl of soup her husband had just made.

“She was my friend,” Maangchi recalled.

Kim’s Convenience” might say, a sneak attack. Once Brian Kwon entered the office, he never left. “My father called it his ‘golden plan,’ after the fact,” he said ruefully. He is now a co-president, alongside his mother and his sister, Stacey, 33. (His father is the chief executive.)

For many non-Asian customers, H Mart is itself a sneak attack. On their first visit, they’re not actually looking for Asian ingredients; customer data shows that they’re drawn instead to the variety and freshness of more familiar produce, seafood and meat. Only later do they start examining bags of Jolly Pong, a sweet puffed-wheat snack, and red-foil-capped bottles of Yakult — a fermented milk drink that sold out after it appeared in Ms. Han’s best-selling novel-turned-movie “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.”

To be welcoming to non-Koreans, H Mart puts up signs in English. At the same time, the younger Mr. Kwon said, “We don’t want to be the gentrified store.” So while some non-Asians recoil from the tanks of lobsters, the Kwons are committed to offering live seafood.

Sunday Family Hospitality Group, in San Francisco, remembers the H Mart of his youth in New Jersey as “just the Korean store” — a sanctuary for his parents, recent immigrants still not at ease in English. Everyone spoke Korean, and all that banchan was a relief: His mother would pack them in her cart for dinner, then pretend she’d made them herself.

Later, as a teenager, he started seeing his Chinese- and Filipino-American friends there, too, and then his non-Asian friends. Spurred by postings on social media, young patrons would line up to buy the latest snack sensation — “the snack aisle is notorious,” Mr. Hong said — like Haitai honey butter chips and Xiao Mei boba ice cream bars. (The current craze: Orion chocolate-churro-flavored snacks that look like baby turtles.)

In “Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown,” a new cookbook by the chef Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, Mr. Jew, 41, recalls Sunday mornings in San Francisco with his ying ying (paternal grandmother in Cantonese), taking three bus transfers to traverse the city, on a mission for fresh chicken — sometimes slaughtered on the spot — and ingredients like pea shoots and lotus leaves.

He still prefers “that Old World kind of shopping,” he said, from independent vendors, each with his own specialties and occasional grouchiness and eccentricities. But he knows that the proliferation of supermarkets like H Mart and 99 Ranch makes it easier for newcomers to Asian food to recreate his recipes.

“Access to those ingredients leads to a deeper understanding of the cuisine,” he said. “And that in turn can become a deeper understanding of a community and a culture.”

Chai Pani in Asheville, N.C., and Atlanta, feels that something is lost when you buy paneer and grass-fed ghee at a Whole Foods Market. You miss the cultural immersion, he says, “getting a dunk and having horizons broadened.”

“An Indian grocery is not just a convenience — it’s a temple,” he said. “You’re feeding the soul. Come in and pick up on the energy.”

In the TV special “Luda Can’t Cook,” which premiered in February, Mr. Irani takes the rapper Ludacris to Cherians, an Indian supermarket in Atlanta. Once Mr. Irani had to scrounge for spices like cumin and turmeric at health food stores; now, surrounded by burlap sacks stuffed with cardamom pods and dried green mango, he tells Ludacris, “This is my house.”

Min Jin Lee, 52, remembers how important H Mart was to people working in Manhattan’s Koreatown in the ’80s, when it was still called Han Ah Reum and “tiny, with almost no place to negotiate yourself through the aisles,” she said. (It has since moved across West 32nd Street to a larger space.) Her parents ran a jewelry wholesale business around the corner, and relied on the store for a cheap but substantial dosirak (lunch box) that came with cups of soup and rice.

She sees the modern incarnation of the store as a boon for second- and third-generation Korean Americans, including thousands of Korean-born adoptees raised by white American parents, who “want to find some sort of connection to the food of their families,” she said. “There aren’t gatekeepers to say who’s in or who’s out.”

BTS — anti-Asian sentiment is growing. With visibility comes risk.

For Ms. Lee, this makes H Mart a comfort. “I like going there because I feel good there,” she said. “In the context of hatred against my community, to see part of my culture being valued — it’s exceptional.”

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W. Galen Weston, Who Transformed a Family Food Empire, Dies at 80

W. Galen Weston, a polo partner of Prince Charles who transformed and expanded the international food empire founded by his grandfather, a baker, and went on to collect luxury department stores, died on April 12 at his home in Toronto. He was 80.

His death was announced by George Weston Ltd., the family-controlled holding company where he had been chairman until retiring in 2016. The announcement did not say what the cause was.

When Mr. Weston joined the family business in 1961, it controlled bakeries in Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia, as well as food shops including Fortnum & Mason, grocer to Queen Elizabeth, and British, Canadian and American supermarkets and food wholesalers. Dairies, chocolate makers and a Canadian paper mill were also in the mix.

In 1972, after working for the business in Ireland, Mr. Weston was given the unenviable task of deciding the fate of Loblaw Groceterias, a Canadian supermarket chain the family had gradually taken control of by 1956. Burdened with debt and poor sales, the chain was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

“No Name” products that promised to exchange fancy packaging for low prices and quality.

some American grocers began buying or licensing the products. Walmart hired Loblaws to develop similar products for its stores in the United States.

“The impact was profound,” said Daniel Bender, a cultural historian of food at the University of Toronto. “Loblaws upscaled their stores so that they were meant to look like a market rather than a supermarket.”

Willard Gordon Galen Weston was born on Oct. 29, 1940, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England. He was the youngest of nine children of Willard Garfield Weston, who had become president of the family company in 1924, and Reta Lila (Howard) Weston, a former schoolteacher.

The family returned to Canada after World War II. According to a brief profile in The New York Times in 1978, as a young man Mr. Weston was “the archetypical playboy of the Western world” who “chased girls and spent almost as many college hours in movie theaters as in the classroom.”

initially struggled when Walmart added fresh groceries to its Canadian stores in 2006, and the botched launch of a new inventory system led to empty shelves in Loblaws stores and bulging warehouses for the company.

Mr. Weston left Mr. Nichol (and his French bulldog, Georgie Girl) to be the face of Loblaws in television commercials and in print advertisements. But he did regularly visit Loblaws stores, both to speak with shoppers and to inspect the store’s garbage, one of his preferred indicators of efficiency.

the lieutenant governor of Ontario — Queen Elizabeth’s proxy in the province — in 1997. She served in that position for five years.

Mr. Weston’s wife survives him, as do his son, Galen, who succeeded him as chairman and chief executive of George Weston; his daughter, Alannah Weston, the chairwoman of Selfridges Group; five of his siblings, Grainger Weston, Nancy Baron, Wendy Rebanks, Gretchen Bauta and Camilla Dalglish; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Weston’s transformation of George Weston was underscored not long before his death when the company announced that it was selling the last of its bakeries, long its predominant operation, to focus on its grocery stores and real estate holdings.

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Ravaged by Covid, Brazil Faces a Hunger Epidemic

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rail-thin teenagers hold placards at traffic stops with the word for hunger — fome — in large print. Children, many of whom have been out of school for over a year, beg for food outside supermarkets and restaurants. Entire families huddle in flimsy encampments on sidewalks, asking for baby formula, crackers, anything.

A year into the pandemic, millions of Brazilians are going hungry.

The scenes, which have proliferated in the last months on Brazil’s streets, are stark evidence that President Jair Bolsonaro’s bet that he could protect the country’s economy by resisting public health policies intended to curb the virus has failed.

From the start of the outbreak, Brazil’s president has been skeptical of the disease’s impact, and scorned the guidance of health experts, arguing that the economic damage wrought by the lockdowns, business closures and mobility restrictions they recommended would be a bigger threat than the pandemic to the country’s weak economy.

That trade-off led to one of the world’s highest death tolls, but also foundered in its goal — to keep the country afloat.

ripping through the social fabric, setting wrenching records, while the worsening health crisis pushes businesses into bankruptcy, killing jobs and further hampering an economy that has grown little or not at all for more than six years.

a study of privation during the pandemic by a network of Brazilian researchers focused on the issue.

Brazil’s Institute of Geography and Statistics.

At first the family managed by spending their government assistance carefully, she said, but this year, once the payments were cut, they struggled.

“There is no work,” she said. “And the bills keep coming.”

Mr. Bolsonaro called those measures “extreme” and warned that they would result in malnutrition.

The president also dismissed the threat of the virus, sowed doubts about vaccines, which his government has been slow to procure, and often encouraged crowds of supporters at political events.

As a second wave of cases this year led to the collapse of the health care system in several cities, local officials again imposed a raft of strict measures — and found themselves at war with Mr. Bolsonaro.

“People have to have freedom, the right to work,” he said last month, calling the new quarantine measures imposed by local governments tantamount to living in a “dictatorship.”

Early this month, as the daily death toll from the virus sometimes surpassed 4,000, Mr. Bolsonaro acknowledged the severity of the humanitarian crisis facing his country. But he took no responsibility and instead faulted local officials.

“Brazil is at the limit,” he said, arguing that the blame lay with “whoever closed everything.”

But economists said that the argument that restrictions intended to control the virus would worsen Brazil’s economic downturn was “a false dilemma.”

In an open letter addressed to Brazilian authorities in late March, more than 1,500 economists and businesspeople asked the government to impose stricter measures, including lockdown.

wrote.

Laura Carvalho, an economist, published a study showing that restrictions can have a negative short-term impact on a country’s financial health, but that, in the long run, it would have been a better strategy.

“If Bolsonaro had carried out lockdown measures, we would have moved earlier from the economic crisis,” said Ms. Carvalho, a professor at the University of São Paulo.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s approach had a broadly destabilizing effect, said Thomas Conti, lecturer at Insper, a business school.

“The Brazilian real was the most devalued currency among all developing countries,” Mr. Conti said. “We are at an alarming level of unemployment, there is no predictability to the future of the country, budget rules are being violated, and inflation grows nonstop.”

campaign called Tem Gente Com Fome, or People are Going Hungry, with the aim of raising money from companies and individuals to get food baskets to needy people across the country.

Mr. Belchior, one of the founders, said the campaign was named after a poem by the writer and artist Solano Trindade. It describes scenes of misery viewed as a train in Rio de Janeiro makes its way across poor neighborhoods where the state has been all but absent for decades.

“Families are increasingly pleading for earlier food deliveries,” said Mr. Belchior. “And they’re depending more on community actions than the government.”

Carine Lopes, 32, the president of a community ballet school in Manguinhos, a low-income, working-class district of Rio de Janeiro, has responded to the crisis by turning her organization into an impromptu relief center.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the price of basic products rose dramatically at nearby stores, she said. The cost of cooking oil more than tripled. A kilogram of rice goes for twice as much. As meat became increasingly prohibitive, Sunday outdoor cookouts became a rarity in the neighborhood.

Long used to fielding calls from parents who desperately wanted a slot for their children at the ballet school, Ms. Lopes has gotten used to a very different appeal. Old acquaintances and strangers text her daily asking about the food baskets the ballet school has been distributing weekly.

“These moms and dads are only thinking about basic things now,” she said. “They call and say: ‘I’m unemployed. I don’t have anything else to eat this week. Is there anything you can give us?’”

When the virus finally recedes, the poorest families will have the hardest time bouncing back, she said.

Ms. Lopes despairs thinking of students who have been unable to tune in to online classes in households that have no internet connection, or where the only device with a screen belongs to a working parent.

“No one will be able to compete for a scholarship with a middle-class student who managed to keep up with classes using their good internet and their tablets,” she said. “Inequality is being exacerbated.”

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