Coronavirus Updates: Tesla Steps Up for UCLA, ​LAUSD Closed Until May 1

Coronavirus Updates: Tesla Steps Up for UCLA, ​LAUSD Closed Until May 1

The coronavirus pandemic's emergence has changed the world around us. Conferences have been cancelled, travel has been severely restricted, and working from home has become the norm. But less clear is the scale of the economic impact and how companies should be reacting. Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.


Manufacturers Asked to Convert Factories to Make Critical Supplies: "We Need All Hands on Deck"; 20,000 Test Kits Purchased, More to Come

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Los Angeles city and county officials are ramping up novel coronavirus testing significantly, announcing on Monday they secured 20,000 test kits that can be processed at a rate of 5,000 a day. Priority will be given to first health care workers and first responders.

Los Angeles city officials also have an additional 100,000 tests kits have been procured from South Korea-based Seegene Technologies that will be made free to the public. County officials also announced a partnership with Curative Inc, a Bay Area company that set up shop earlier this month to produce test kits in San Dimas and is now making 1,000 a day.

As of March 20, roughly 2,400 people had been tested in Los Angeles County. Experts say that without widespread testing, it's difficult to understand where there are outbreaks and contain them.

The announcement came as the number of cases in the county shot up to 536, with 128 new cases announced on Monday. About 80% of the cases are from people ages 18-65. And of those positive cases, 90 have been hospitalized at some point, said Barbara Ferrer, the head of the county's public health department.

With hospital bracing for a surge and anticipating a shortage in supplies like swabs, testing trays, gloves, masks and other materials, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez called on manufacturers to convert their factories to help.

"We're calling on all factories and manufacturers in Southern California who have the ability to convert their production lines to do it as soon as possible," Martinez said. "We need all hands on deck to properly address this crisis with the speed and scale it requires."

Los Angeles county is the nation's hub of manufacturing.

"We should not wait for the president to use the Defense Production Act," she said.

Reporting by Rachel Uranga. Follow her at @racheluranga

LAUSD closed until May 1, Verizon to provide internet at home for needy students

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Los Angeles Unified School District schools will remain closed through May 1, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday as officials scramble to stem the spread of the fast-moving novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, the nation's second largest district has brokered a deal with Verizon to provide internet connectivity at their home as instruction has moved online. The district has one of the highest concentration of low-income students in the state with 80 percent qualifying for free and reduced lunches. It's estimated about one out of five LAUSD K-12 students don't have access to the internet.

"The digital divide is very real, as many as 100,000 of our students lack access to the internet at home," Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement. "We must find a way for all students to continue to learn while schools are closed and this partnership with Verizon will help to do that." Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

Reporting by Rachel Uranga. Follow her at @racheluranga

Tesla Ships Masks, Supplies to UCLA Medical Center

UCLA said Elon Musk's Tesla has begun shipping vital supplies to regional hospitals as part of the company's effort to help with disruptions. The electric car giant tweeted: "Glad we can help! We're sending masks and supplies to as many hospitals as we can."

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The Santa Monica-based movie-ticketing service Atom Tickets has pre-sold more tickets for "Godzilla vs. Kong" than any film since the start of lockdown.

Following a disastrous year for the box office, its performance could be a litmus test for Hollywood and the many theaters that teetered on the brink during the pandemic.

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Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

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Despite — or in many cases because of — the raging pandemic, 2020 was a great year for many tech startups. It turned out to be an ideal time to be in the video game business, developing a streaming ecommerce platform for Gen Z, or helping restaurants with their online ordering.

But which companies in Southern California had the best year? That is highly subjective of course. But in an attempt to highlight who's hot, we asked dozens of the region's top VCs to weigh in.

We wanted to know what companies they wish they would have invested in if they could go back and do it all over again.

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Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

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