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This venture firm in India is offering fast funding to early-stage startups in a time of uncertainty

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As investors get cautious about dealmaking in India amid the coronavirus outbreak and their appetite to fund early stage startups begins to evaporate, one venture capital fund is stepping up to make that void smaller.

WaterBridge Ventures, an investor that has cut some of the earliest checks in startups such as edtech firms Unacademy and Doubtnut, and Atlan, which helps enterprises better manage data, has launched Fast Forward, a program with a committed $10 million from its second fund to finance Seed and pre-Series A rounds in more than a dozen startups.

Any early-stage startup can apply in Fast Forward by answering 10 questions, and WaterBridge partners will engage with them virtually and conclude whether they want to invest within 10 days, said Manish Kheterpal, founder and managing partner at the VC fund.

“Most young entrepreneurs in India have no experience. They have either just graduated or dropped out of college. If we put a normal VC lens to evaluate them, they fall flat as they don’t have any experience, so you end up not investing. We want to back some of those ideas,” said Kheterpal in an interview with TechCrunch.

The launch’s timing is also interesting. Kheterpal, a veteran investor, said WaterBridge began exploring the program last year and the coronavirus crises convinced him to launch it now as it could serve a greater purpose.

Several early-stage startups have told TechCrunch in recent weeks that they are finding it incredibly challenging to get in touch with some VCs in the country amid the coronavirus crises.

Founder of a social commerce startup who requested anonymity said that most VCs he has attempted to reach out are currently only engaging with founders they knew from prior to the outbreak.

“We think it’s exactly the right time to invest. History has shown us that some of the best firms have emerged from the crises,” said Kheterpal.

The startups that are selected in Fast Forward will have the capital in their bank account in 20 days. The check comes in two sizes: $135,000, aimed at startups that have not built the product yet, and $330,000 for those who have some semblance of the product but may not have started to generate revenue yet. WaterBridge Ventures will take 15% equity in the startup in return.

Fast Forward is open to investing in nearly every category, though it is avoiding at least two: Hardware manufacturing and real estate, two areas that have proven challenging for scale in the country.

Fast funding is not a new idea, though it’s yet to receive wider traction among VC funds. NFX, an investor in early-stage startups, launched a seed-funding initiative last month to invite founders in the U.S. to apply for seed funding of $1 million to $2 million in exchange for 15% of their company.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/07/this-venture-firm-in-india-is-offering-fast-funding-to-early-stage-startups-in-a-time-of-uncertainty/

Covid19

A Federal Judge Blocks A Vaccine Mandate For NYC Teachers

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A student arrives for the first day of class at Brooklyn’s PS 245 elementary school in New York on Sept. 13. Mark Lennihan/AP hide caption

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Mark Lennihan/AP

NEW YORK — New York City schools have been temporarily blocked from enforcing a vaccine mandate for teachers and other workers by a federal appeals judge just days before it was to take effect.

The worker mandate for the nation’s largest school system was set to go into effect Monday. But late Friday, a judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary injunction and referred the case to a three-judge panel on an expedited basis.

Department of Education spokesperson Danielle Filson said officials are seeking a speedy resolution by the circuit court next week.

“We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” Filson said in an email.

She said more than 82% of department employees have been vaccinated.

While most school workers have been vaccinated, unions representing New York City principals and teachers warned that could still leave the 1 million student school system short of as many as 10,000 teachers, along with other staffers, such as cafeteria workers and school police officers.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has resisted calls to delay the mandate.

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/25/1040699321/nyc-teachers-vaccine-mandate-judge-blocks-schools

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Covid19

Limits On Toilet Paper And Cleaning Supplies Are Back At Costco

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Shoppers lined up to buy supplies at Costco Wholesale in New Jersey last year as fears over COVID-19 grew around the world. The company recently reintroduced limits on toilet paper, cleaning supplies and other products as it copes with supply chain challenges. Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images hide caption

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Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The days of toilet paper shortages may not be over just yet: Costco has announced new limits on purchases of certain household items, as supply chain issues bedevil the company and the delta variant spreads.

The company is putting “limitations on key items” such as toilet paper, bottled water and cleaning supplies so it can meet any uptick in demand due to the COVID-19 surge, Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said during the company’s latest earnings call on Thursday.

He did not specify how many items customers would be allowed to buy.

“A year ago there was a shortage of merchandise,” Galanti told investors during the call.

Now, Galanti said the retailer has plenty of merchandise, but delivery delays are the issue, citing “short-term changes to trucking” and “delivery need” as the main factors.

In the meantime, Galanti said Costco is trying to stay ahead of the curve by continuing to placing orders early to get stores what they need.

In an effort to address the delivery issues, Galanti told investors that the company has chartered three ocean vessels for the next year to transport several thousand containers between the U.S., Asia and Canada. Each ship will be able to carry 800 to 1,000 containers at a time.

The membership-only warehouse retailer said it has seen an increase in overall price inflation on its products this quarter, estimated to be between 3.5% and 4.5%, Galanti said.

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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/24/1040471872/limits-toilet-paper-cleaning-supplies-costco-delta-covid

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Covid19

A CDC Panel Backs Booster Shots For Older Adults, A Step Toward Making Them Available

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A CDC advisory panel has recommended a third Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose for those who are 65 or older or run a high risk of severe disease. Matt Rourke/AP hide caption

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Matt Rourke/AP

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended a third dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older as well as others at a high risk of severe illness.

The committee’s unanimous vote to allow older adults and long-term care residents to receive an extra dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was announced after two days of presentations reviewing scientific evidence on the safety and effectiveness of a third vaccine dose.

The committee, in a 13-2 vote, also recommended that people 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions get a third shot.

It also endorsed people ages 18 to 49 who have an underlying medical risk access to another dose. The panel split 9-6 on this point but settled on advising that these people consider their individual benefit and risk, possibly in consultation with a medical provider, before they get a Pfizer booster shot.

In what might’ve been the most contentious deliberation, the committee said people 18 to 65 who work in a job or other setting where they are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 should not yet be allowed to receive an extra Pfizer dose.

Committee member Dr. Matthew Zahn, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, expressed concern about the difficulty of implementing such an action. Another member, Institute for Health Research investigator Dr. Matthew Daley, said he was worried that the potential guidance would be “broad enough that it could limit access to other groups.”

The CDC has yet to offer guidance on the use of COVID-19 boosters for fully vaccinated Americans. The influential federal public health agency usually follows the advice of its advisory committees although it’s not required to do so.

The recommendation follows the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization on Wednesday to offer a booster shot for people 65 and older and those who run a high risk of severe disease. The FDA also gave the OK to give people a booster to ages 18 and up whose exposure to the coronavirus puts them at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

Vaccine providers must follow the CDC’s recommendation

The CDC recommendations, when issued, are crucial at this phase in the pandemic. As cases surge across the country, the booster guidelines will determine how widely doctors and other health care workers administer those vaccine doses.

Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC scientist, stressed at Thursday’s advisory meeting that because the federal government has purchased all of the COVID-19 vaccines on an emergency basis for the pandemic, including the Pfizer vaccine, vaccine providers are required to follow the recommendations of the CDC and the FDA.

CDC and FDA recommendations will inform Biden’s booster plan

The FDA authorization also allows the Pfizer booster dose to go to health care workers, teachers, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the agency’s acting commissioner, said in a statement.

U.S. regulators will rule on booster guidance for those who have gotten the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a later date, The Associated Press reported. Moderna’s two-shot vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine are currently offered under an emergency use authorization, pending formal FDA approval.

Like the FDA, the CDC panel’s decision breaks with the Biden administration’s sweeping booster strategy to offer an extra dose to most age groups as early as this week in an effort to protect Americans against the highly contagious delta variant.

But the White House said that Biden’s booster rollout, laid out last month, would also continue to heed the guidance of government scientists as it awaited both FDA authorization and CDC guidance on COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/23/1040078971/cdc-covid-19-pfizer-boosters-adults-guidance

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Florida Makes Quarantine Optional For Students Exposed To COVID-19

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen at a news conference last week. His newly appointed surgeon general on Wednesday signed protocols allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Wilfredo Lee/AP hide caption

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

ORLANDO, Fla. — A day after assuming his job, Florida’s newly appointed surgeon general on Wednesday signed new protocols allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they are asymptomatic after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The new guidelines signed by Dr. Joseph Ladapo also tweaked the state’s prohibition against school mask mandates, prompting an administrative law judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the old rule that had been filed by various school boards.

In terms of quarantine rules, Ladapo eliminated previous mandates requiring students to quarantine for at least four days off-campus if they’ve been exposed. Under the new guidelines, students who have been exposed can continue going to campus, “without restrictions or disparate treatment,” provided they are asymptomatic. They can also quarantine, but no longer than seven days, provided they do not get sick.

“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday at a news conference in Kissimmee. “It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who get infected can spread the virus starting from two days before they have any symptoms. The CDC recommends that a student should quarantine for 14 days if they are unvaccinated. They can shorten the quarantine to seven days by testing negative, according to the CDC.

The president of a statewide teachers’ union said school districts need all the tools necessary to keep children safe.

“Limiting districts’ options and blocking them from following CDC guidelines is not in the best interest of the health of our students, employees or families,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association.

DeSantis named Ladapo to the job on Tuesday. Ladapo, who previously was a UCLA doctor and health policy researcher, shares the governor’s approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic. Like DeSantis, Ladapo has said he doesn’t believe in school closures, lockdowns or vaccine mandates.

DeSantis’ administration has opposed mask and vaccine mandates, fought local school boards over their efforts to require students to wear masks in schools and championed the use of monoclonal antibodies as a treatment for those who get sick with COVID-19.

Unchanged from the earlier rules are requirements that students with the virus either quarantine for 10 days, receive a negative test and be asymptomatic before returning to campus or offer a doctor’s note granting permission.

As in the previous guidelines, schools can require masks as long as students can opt out, though the new rules add language that it’s “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.”

School officials in Alachua, Broward, Leon and Miami-Dade and Orange counties recently challenged the state’s prohibition against mask mandates. But the Florida Department of Health argued that its new rule should lead to the dismissal of the lawsuit that targeted the old rule. An administrative law judge agreed Wednesday, saying no decision on the validity of the rule could be made since it had been repealed.

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon called the Department of Health rule changes “disingenuous.”

“Essentially, the State is responding to the legal challenges of its rules by repealing them and creating new ones, with limited public notice,” Simon said in a statement.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/22/1039907024/florida-quarantine-optional-for-students-exposed-covid

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