Coronavirus Updates: California Unemployment Claims at 1.9M; L.A. Amazon Worker Contracts Covid-19; Disney Initiates Furloughs

Coronavirus Updates: California Unemployment Claims at 1.9M; L.A. Amazon Worker Contracts Covid-19; Disney Initiates Furloughs

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.

Today:

  • Amazon Warehouse Worker in L.A. Tests Positive, As Company Struggles with Covid-19
  • USC Shows (and Ranks) L.A. Neighborhoods With COVID-19 Cases
  • Gov. Newsom to small businesses: "Let's get ahead of the queue"
  • L.A. County records 78 deaths, cases top 4,000
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong wants to buy shuttered hospital, convert to COVID-19 command center
  • Disney announces furloughs amid pandemic, but employees keep healthcare

    Disney announces furloughs amid pandemic, but employees keep healthcare

    upload.wikimedia.org

    Days after Disney announced top executives would take salary cuts to save money, the entertainment giant notified employees that many of them "whose jobs aren't necessary at this time" will be furloughed. "All impacted workers will remain Disney employees," the company said Thursday, meaning they will continue receiving healthcare benefits as paychecks are cut. Disney has 223,000 workers and is L.A.'s biggest employer. It is expected many of the cuts would come from the company's theme parks that have been closed, and it was not known how many employees would lose their job from the studio and other businesses.

    Patrick Soon-Shiong wants to buy shuttered hospital, convert to COVID-19 command center

    Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, one of L.A.'s richest men, wants to use his family foundation to buy shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown and convert it into a hospital to treat COVID-19 patients and conduct coronavirus research. The story was first reported by The Los Angeles Times, which Soon-Shiong owns.

    The Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation has offered to purchase the medical campus out of bankruptcy for $135 million. Terms of the bid were not disclosed. St. Vincent has been closed since January as the sprawling medical facility fell into bankruptcy. All bids for the hospital must be submitted to a judge by Friday. A final hearing on the sale is scheduled later next week.

    L.A. County records 78 deaths, cases top 4,000

    Another 13 people died of the novel coronavirus in Los Angeles County and officials logged 534 new cases on Thursday, pushing the total number of people that tested positive past 4,000.

    So far, 78 people have died in the county. Of the most recent deaths, 12 were over the age of 65, while one was between 41 and 65. With the exception of one individual over 65, all had underlying health conditions.

    The daily count of COVID-19-positive individuals increased by 1,000 in the past 48 hours, bringing to the total to 4,045.

    The increasing number has put strain on hospitals. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that about 22% of positive cases in L.A. have required hospitalization at some point. As of Thursday, 241 individuals were in hospital beds — about two thirds of them had no underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. She said there are five COVID-19 patients now in intensive care that are under 35 and a couple have no underlying health conditions.

    Statewide, the death toll rose past 200 and on Wednesday. In a sign of just how concerned officials are, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged the city's 4 million residents on Wednesday to wear protective face covering to stem the spread of the fast-moving virus. To punctate his point, he donned a black mask, saying "I know it will look surreal. We're going to have to get used to seeing each other like this."

    The news comes as new cases have emerged among the homeless and jailed population — both groups officials have been closely monitoring. There have been nine cases among homeless. At the county jail, seven individuals have tested positive, including one inmate. At the Lancaster State Prison, six inmates have the virus. Two homeless shelters have also reported Covid-19 cases.

    Gov.  Newsom to small biz: "Let's get ahead of the queue"

    California Governor Gavin Newsom spoke directly to state business owners in his daily coronavirus address on Thursday, briefing them on several new statewide programs, and imploring them to begin the process of registering for federal help. Since March 12, 1.9 million Californians have applied for unemployment insurance, he said.

    Newsom introduced two actions he says will help make it easier for small businesses in California to get back on their feet. The first is an interest-free, no-penalty deferral of taxes for up to $50,000 for one year. The governor called that a "bridge loan" to help businesses recover.

    The second is a $50M program to provide loans for California businesses who, for one reason or another, don't qualify for federal assistance.

    Newsom also strongly encouraged businesses to sign up for the federal programs that will provide grants and loans to struggling businesses. Registration for those programs open tomorrow.

    Newsom stressed it's "profoundly important" people fill out their forms as soon as possible, in particular for the "paycheck protection program," a grant program that allows businesses who keep paying at least 75% of their employees to be reimbursed by the federal government.

    "Let's get ahead of the queue," he said.

    Newsom also touted an effort led by Fresno-based jobs site Bitwise to match unemployed Californians with jobs in high demand called OnwardCa.org. The site, he said, is prioritizing four industries in particular: healthcare, agriculture, logistics, and grocers.

    USC Shows (and Ranks) L.A. 'Hoods With COVID-19 Cases

    Tami Abdollah

    Los Angeles locals have always known it is a city of neighborhoods, but this novel coronavirus has made that especially clear. The official lines on where neighborhoods begin and end, and where cases are to be found, have never seemed so murky.

    On Thursday, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering released two new COVID-19 data visualizations that aim to make at least where COVID-19 cases are being found, more clear. Read more >>

    Amazon Warehouse Worker in L.A. Tests Positive, As Company Struggles with Covid-19

    Monica Nickelsburg, GeekWire

    At least 30 of the fulfillment centers that power Amazon's e-commerce business have outbreaks of COVID-19, according to news reports and employee accounts. The most recent case in Los Angeles was reported Wednesday, when Amazon confirmed to City News Service that an employee at their warehouse in Atwater Village has tested positive for COVID-19. The mounting cases are sparking walkouts, frustration, and an unprecedented challenge for a tech company that finds itself at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more >>

    🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
    Image Source: Tinder

    🔦 Spotlight

    Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

    The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

    In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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    • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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    Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

    Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


    Techstars Los Angeles

    Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

    Location: Culver City

    Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

    Focus: Industry Agnostic

    Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


    Grid110

    Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

    Location: DTLA

    Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

    Focus: Industry Agnostic

    Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


    Idealab

    Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

    Location: Pasadena

    Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

    Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

    Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


    Plug In South LA

    Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

    Location: Los Angeles

    Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

    Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

    Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


    Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

    The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

    Location: West Hollywood

    Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

    Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

    Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


    MedTech Innovator

    MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

    Location: Westwood

    Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

    Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

    Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


    KidsX

    The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

    Location: East Hollywood

    Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

    Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

    Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


    Disney Accelerator

    Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

    Location: Burbank

    Type of Funding: Growth stage

    Focus: Technology and entertainment

    Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


    Techstars Space Accelerator

    Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

    Location: Los Angeles

    Type of Funding: Growth stage

    Focus: Aerospace

    Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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    🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
    Image Source: Joby Aviation

    🔦 Spotlight

    Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

    For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

    Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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