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The sale itself is modest compared to last year’s edition, with people fetching boxes of pre-ordered pastries from designated locations instead of mingling in a party-like atmosphere and buying treats directly from the professional bakers responsible for them. Still, it represents a small step toward normalcy for the restaurant community, which has long emphasized charitable giving.

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Two weeks after testing positive, Hugh O’Neill, 53-year-old general manager of Cantina 76’s Mount Pleasant location, is on a ventilator at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, coping with two types of pneumonia and an infection of undetermined origin. His liver is inflamed, his heart is arrhythmic, and his kidneys are too weak to flush out paralytic drugs that doctors administered in what they describe as a chess game of controlling symptoms.

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Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, scientific researchers and cultural commentators have talked about its parallels with the early days of AIDS, zeroing in on similarities in uncertainties, outlook and preventive strategies. But one of the main ways in which AIDS and coronavirus are alike is that collective grappling with the lethal disease has largely played out in restaurants.


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