Los Angeles officials are preparing for the next phase of a massive vaccine campaign that will test the region's capabilities. Most Angelenos aren't expected to get the vaccine until the spring or summer.
Among the stickiest of problems is how to ensure patients are given a second vaccine dose or "booster dose" meant to make the inoculation 95% effective and authenticate who has the vaccine.
With no national strategy, individual counties have been desperately looking for solutions. In Florida, Bloomberg reports that officials trying to rollout the vaccination have turned to party reservation system Eventbrite as government websites become overwhelmed.
In Los Angeles, the nation's most populous county, officials have enlisted Healthvana, a healthcare startup that in 2015 began delivering HIV results to users over its platform.
Since April, the company has provided coronavirus test results to patients accessing a number of county testing sites — including one at Dodger Stadium — through its partnership with labs like Curative.
It's likely that a slew of tech solutions will spring up as more vaccinations are administered across the country and the need to show proof of immunization grows.
"There won't be one system across the country that manages all of this, from what we know," said Healthvana CEO Ramin Bastani. "We're not trying to be the only system."
After receiving a dose of the vaccine from a county vaccination site, Healthvana sends the patient an email or text message to view their digital vaccination record. Users can then opt-in to receive text messages and email reminders for the second dose and store the record in their Apple or Google Wallet.
The Department of Public Health said this technology will not replace the paper vaccination cards. Those without smartphones can print a PDF version of the Healthvana record or stick to that hard-copy documentation.
"It's kind of similar to credit cards as a form of payment," Bastani said. "It's not like you can only use an American Express across the country and that's the only form of credit card."
But Bastani is careful about how he's positioning this tool and says these records don't serve as an "immunity passport."
L.A. County has administered 75,015 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 7,871 doses of Moderna's. Together, that represents just 30.7% of all doses allocated to the county.
In a briefing Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state remains in phase one of its vaccination plan, which prioritizes the roughly three million health care workers and long-term care residents. Phase 1B will first target people over 75 and workers in education in childcare, emergency services, food and agriculture.
"We are working aggressively to accelerate our pace," he said. "That said, it's gone too slowly."
This post has been updated.
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Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, county health officials and private labs are ramping up COVID-19 testing capacity as people anxious to visit family flock to centers and cases rise.
Los Angeles County has recently added some 6,000 appointments to testing locations across the region and expanded testing hours. This week, LAX started offering COVID tests to fliers for $150, just ahead of what is normally one of the busiest travel seasons.
It comes as coronavirus cases have surged back to alarming levels and demand for testing rises. Wait times at county testing stations are now running 10 to 20 minutes, and they could grow in the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving as more seek testing.
Experts warn that a test doesn't guarantee that travelers won't bring the virus to Thanksgiving dinner.
"There isn't a testing strategy that makes Thanksgiving 'safe'," said Omai Garner, director of clinical microbiology at UCLA, who oversees testing for UCLA Health. "Thanksgiving should only be celebrated within households that have been pods through the pandemic."
The rise in cases led Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday to impose a "limited stay-at-home order" between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m for a month starting Saturday.
Still, as coronavirus cases swell across the country, lines at testing centers are getting longer. And private labs are preparing for the holiday season.
Curative Inc., which has administered two million tests in L.A., saw a 35% increase in testing this week. In that time alone, the startup ran 25,000 COVID tests. And other labs are opening up more sites.
Spokesman Ken Sanderman said the company is gearing up for more by expanding hours of operation at some testing sites including Dodger Stadium. That location will stay open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"We are anticipating a surge in patients coming to get tested through the rest of the year with the holiday seasons and rates rising, and have prepared in anticipation," Sanderman said.
Other labs, like Santa Monica-based Quantgene, are opening new test sites almost weekly. The startup that once supplied mostly production studios opened its second walk-in site — this one in Culver City — on Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Rachel Strohmeyer said the company is looking into opening more locations in East L.A. More clients are scheduling appointments to get nasal swab tests before travel, a trend "we only expect to continue," she said.
This week, the CDC warned Americans against traveling for Thanksgiving and urged them to celebrate at home instead. California has sent more counties back into the most restrictive category in the state's reopening scheme. Over 94% of the state's population rests in that purple tier, including L.A. County.
The county is strongly encouraging residents to "not use testing as a permission slip to engage in unsafe activities," according to an emailed statement from the L.A. County Office of Emergency Management.
LA Tech Updates: Fisker to Go Public; LA Bars, Gyms and Salons Go Dark Again; Apple Gives $400M to Stem Housing Crisis
- LA Bars, Gyms and Salons Go Dark Again
- Fisker set to go public with $2.9b valuation, EV SUV to roll out by 2022
- Apple Allocates $400M to Affordable Housing in California
Southern California Bars, Restaurants, Salons, Gyms, Places of Worship Must Shut Down Indoor Operations Amid Surge in COVID-19 CasesImage courtesy of Musso & Frank's
Bars, gyms, places of worship, salons and offices for non-critical sectors will largely go dark again in Southern California. As coronavirus cases surge, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a list of new statewide restrictions and targeted closures in 30 counties including Los Angeles.
Statewide, all bars, dine-in restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, museums, card rooms and entertainment centers must close indoor operations, Newsom said on Monday.
"This is a new statewide action effective today," he said.
In counties on the state's watch list, which include Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, personal care services including salons and barbershops, along with indoor malls and fitness centers must close indoor operations.
Effective immediately, CA is closing some indoor business operations statewide and additional indoor business operations in counties on @CAPublicHealth Monitoring List for 3 consecutive days.
📍Find the updated list of counties here: https://t.co/snYe5v55Rw pic.twitter.com/W3wBJp2ap5
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) July 13, 2020
Those on the watchlist are among the most populous parts of the state, containing about 80% of Californians.
Restaurants are still allowed to stay open for outdoor dining and takeout.
As of Monday, California had more than 329,000 cases and 7,040 deaths.
Fisker Set to Go Public with $2.9b Valuation, EV SUV to Roll Out by 2022
Electric car startup Fisker is set to go public through a merger that values the company at $2.9 billion and allows it to begin producing its first vehicle by 2022.
Los Angeles-based Fisker announced the deal with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company backed by private equity firm Apollo Global Management on Monday. It comes as investors look for the next Tesla Inc, which has seen soaring valuation in recent weeks.
The deal - expected to close by the end of the fourth quarter - will give Fisker more than $1 billion in gross proceeds to jumpstart production of Fisker Ocean, the vision of founder Henrik Fisker, CEO and chariman of the eponymous named startup. The arrangement spotlights the use of special purpose acquisition companies, known as a SPACs. Another SPAC enabled electric-vehicle startup Nikola Corp to go public last month. Nikola shares have soared since their debut.
The Fisker Ocean, which premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, starts at $37,499 and is being billed as the most sustainable vehicle, replete with a vegan interior and recycled carpet. Reservations for the either purchase or lease start at $250.
"This vote of confidence from investors, coupled with our exciting progress on the development of our first vehicle, lays out Fisker's path to 2022 and beyond," said Fisker, a one time Aston-Martin designer.
He told CNBC that the agreement was the best way to get the line of vehicles produced, but said the company does not intend to build its own plant. While the EV market is expected to soar in coming years, startups struggle to find funding for the capital intensive demands of building a car.
"Our funding, product plans and brand development actions are on course," Fisker said in the announcement. "Prototype vehicles are expected to start durability testing by the end of this year, and we continue to make significant progress on the development of our sales and service proposition."
Fisker's previous venture, Fisker Automotive, fell into bankruptcy in 2013 and was bought by a Chinese group that rebranded it Karma. That company, which has been struggling after several layoff rounds and restructuring, last week secured $100 million from investors. It hopes to use that to raise a total of $300 million and roll out a line of electric vehicles.
Apple Allocates $400M to Stem California's Housing Crisiswhite and brown wooden house during night timePhoto by Carl Nenzen Loven on Unsplash
Apple announced today that it has allocated its first $400 million toward addressing California's housing crisis. The Silicon Valley giant had said last November it would commit $2.5 billion to the effort over multiple years.
Apple first partnered with Housing Trust Silicon Valley in hopes of bringing affordable housing and mortgage assistance to the Bay Area. Now, they're expanding their partnership to California House Finance Agency (CalHFA), a state agency that supports renters and homebuyers in two ways: Their single family division allows families to apply for loans and work with loan officers directly to tailor a plan to their income. Their multifamily division helps housing developers apply for loans to create more affordable housing.
The funding is heavily concentrated around the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, but cities statewide will be able to apply for their housing assistance in areas throughout the state where the company is present, including Culver City.
"Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, in a press release.
The company is dividing its financial assistance to have the broadest possible impact: $1 billion for an affordable housing investment fund, $1 billion for first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund, $300 million Apple-owned land for affordable housing, $150 million Bay Area housing and $50 million to support vulnerable populations.
The low-cost housing efforts will roll out over the next five years across the Bay Area, but two of the four programs are already underway.
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