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Therapeutic Robot Made by Pasadena Company Selected to Team With Pediatric Hospitals

Sat, 2021-01-16 17:28

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A Pasadena company that makes a robot designed to interact with children with autism or other developmental disabilities is among 13 young businesses selected to take part in the largest-ever pediatric technology accelerator program, headed by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the hospital announced Thursday.

Embodied Inc. unveiled Moxie in April. The robot, which facilitates “play-based learning that is paced to weekly themes and missions with content designed to promote social, emotional, and cognitive learning, according to a statement from the company.

Officials at CHLA have selected Embodied and its friendly robot to take part in the KidsX initiative, which brings 51 member organizations together to develop and place burgeoning technologies in children’s hospitals throughout the U.S. to improve the care, CHLA said in a written statement. The finalists were culled from more than 300 applicants.

“KidsX facilitates relationships between leading children’s hospitals and entrepreneurial innovators to build, test and deploy software solutions to make pediatric care exceptionally effective, safe, efficient and convenient for children and families,” the statement said.

 Embodied CEO Paolo Pirjanian said he was looking forward to the partnership.

“During the 13 weeks of the accelerator, we will collaborate with select top hospitals to pilot Moxie in various routine care scenarios and enter into agreements for a larger pilot testing of Moxie with a view for large scale deployments in the future,” he said.

While the product is new, initial results have been promising, according to Pirjanian.

“Our research is still ongoing and preliminary, but we’ve been beta testing Moxie with families across the U.S. and are excited to share that parents have been reporting positive behavioral changes in their child after engaging with Moxie,” he said.

“Changes include feeling happier and less lonely, being better able to cope with their emotions and calm themselves down when upset, increased politeness and helpfulness, expressing thoughts and feelings more clearly, and greater interest in the thoughts and feelings of others,” he said. “Again, we’re still gathering and analyzing data, but are thrilled with these early results.”

The invention met with commercial success, as well, with orders quickly overshadowing production capacity, Pirjanian said. Embodied was forced to stop taking orders and instead compile a waiting list as the company works to build more machines.

“We’ve been pleased with the reception of Moxie since our initial announcement this past April,” he said. “We were recently named to TIME’s list of The Best Inventions of 2020 and were a CES Innovation Award 2021 Honoree.”

The 12 other companies selected for the KidsX project come from across the U.S., and one is based in the U.K., according to CHLA.

CHLA Chief Innovation Officer and KidsX Managing director Omkar Kulkarni said the hospital was proud of the assembled cohort of business partners and “could not be more eager to lend our expertise and guidance as they create tangible solutions that will transform the pediatric digital health innovation landscape, which has suffered in the past from lack of funding and support.”

“We specifically sought out early stage companies focused in the pediatric space or companies who had found some traction in the adult market that were looking to enter the pediatric market,” he said. “We believe that the KidsX model will accelerate each organization’s ability to source, screen, prioritize, test and deploy purpose-built digital health solutions at scale.”

CHLA Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Lara Khouri said while children make up 20% of the nation’s hospital population, innovation in the pediatric arena is often overlooked.

“By directly collaborating with the world-class children’s hospitals in the KidsX network, companies will be able to validate product and market fit in pediatrics more quickly, saving valuable time and resources and bringing much-needed digital health tools to patient families faster than ever before,” she said.

Pirjanian said the company is working hard to build as many Moxies as it can to meet demand.

“Five years ago, we set out on this moonshot vision to revolutionize childcare with an adorable, lifelike and believable robot character fueled by A.I.,” he said.

“Obviously, we couldn’t have anticipated that the world would be in a mental health crisis due to COVID,” Pirjanian said. “As a result, the need for our solution is even more critical and our team is working around the clock to bring it to as many children as possible. We cannot wait to be able to have a positive impact in their lives.”

More information on Embodied and Moxie is available on the company’s website at embodied.com.

County Order to Close Additional Business Could Come After Closed-Door Supervisors Meeting Friday

Fri, 2021-01-15 05:56

With a continued surge in COVID-19 cases that has flooded hospitals with patients and led to deaths roughly every six minutes, Los Angeles County could face more business closures in an effort to slow the virus spread, with a decision potentially coming as early as Friday.

The decision would not necessarily govern Pasadena businesses, because Pasadena has its own health department and issues its own health orders.

The nonprofit online publication Capital & Main, citing unnamed county sources, reported Thursday night that the county Board of Supervisors will hold a closed-door discussion Friday to consider additional infection-control measures, including possible closures of indoor shopping malls and other non-essential businesses.

All such businesses are already operating under strict 20% capacity limits under a regional stay-at-home order imposed by the state due to a lack of intensive-care unit beds across Southern California.

According to the county website, the Board of Supervisors will be holding a special closed-door meeting at 1 p.m. Friday. The two agenda items are a meeting with legal counsel regarding “significant exposure to litigation” and a performance evaluation of county department heads.

During a media briefing Wednesday, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer would not rule out the possibility of additional health restrictions being imposed, particularly in light of soaring COVID infection numbers, hospitalizations and deaths. She also noted the likely presence in the county of a new coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom. The new strain of the virus does not make people sicker, but it is far more contagious, meaning it can spread more rapidly from person to person, rapidly driving case numbers even higher.

“Current projections by the experts predict that if left unchecked, this variant could dominate locally by March,” Ferrer said.

She urged residents to continue adhering to existing health restrictions, while suggesting more may be needed.

“We should be prepared to do more if cases remain high,” she said. “The work ahead requires us to take every action necessary to reduce transmission.”

Asked Thursday night about possible new business closures or other restrictions, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “That’s something I know that the county is looking at.”

“I think it’s the obvious categories of things people have looked at – – whether or not schools stay open and closed, whether outdoor gyms and recreational youth leagues stay open and closed, indoor malls, retail, things like that,” Garcetti said.

The mayor said that given the potential danger of the UK variant of the virus, “we have to always be open and I will always follow the science and the advice of our public health (leaders) … and the county supervisors, who I know are making very difficult decisions and are incredible leaders right now trying to figure out whether or not there should be further closures.”

Ferrer noted this week that workplace outbreaks have risen dramatically in recent weeks, helping to drive the surge in cases, possibly lending credence to a possible shutdown of more businesses.

Garcetti echoed the concern about workplaces Thursday, saying essential workers are at heightened danger of being infected with COVID and spreading it to their families.

“We’ve reached that breaking point where too many essential workers in our denser neighborhoods have to go to work, are coming home and are spreading that,” he said.

The mayor said the region could potentially avoid stricter business restrictions if case numbers ease.

“But the moment it goes up, like we saw in December, at any pace like that, that is absolutely something we cannot sustain, and most importantly, our hospitals cannot, and we would move into crisis mode there,” he said.

Grocery Store Construction Underway at Site of Former OSH

Wed, 2021-01-13 14:15

Construction of a new grocery store is well underway at the site of a former Orchard Supply Hardware location along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, but specifics about the plan, such as what store is moving in and when, remained unclear Wednesday.

The project sits on the former hardware store site at  3425 E. Colorado Blvd.

Plans filed with the city last year by KCB Pasadena Store, LLC, call for a 41,459-square-foot grocery store at the site, including off-site sales of alcoholic beverages.

But the name of the store to occupy the space, as well as a timeframe of when it may open, remained unclear. 

“At this time, we don’t know the name of the grocery store, and we won’t know until they request a business license or sign a permit,” city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.

The planned hours of operation for the new businesses were 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week., according to a staff report prepared by the Pasadena Planning and Community Development Department drawn up in August, as the developer applied for a conditional use permit to allow the sale of alcohol.

“The proposed establishment would offer a range of typical grocery offerings, in addition to specialty items and related services,” the report said. “The store’s offerings will include fresh produce, prepackaged meats, packaged foods, dairy products, salad bar, and hot food offerings.”

The OSH store announced its closure in late-2018, after the parent company, Lowe’s, elected to close all stores in California, Oregon and Florida.

Last Call: California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program Closes Jan. 13

Tue, 2021-01-12 14:24

Applications for the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program will be accepted up to 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13.

This is the last chance for the first round of grant applications, although there may be another opportunity for small business assistance later this month. A date for the opening of applications for the second round will be announced later.

The first round program officially opened on Dec. 30 and received thousands of applications, leading to some businesses being unable to access the application process before the first deadline on Jan. 8.

The Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), part of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), made adjustments to the program website and decided to extend the application deadline to this Wednesday.

The program grants eligible small businesses up to $25,000 to help them stay afloat during the pandemic. Small businesses that are qualified include those whose annual gross revenues are between $1,000 and $2.5 million, based on their most recently filed tax return, including sole proprietorships and nonprofits.

Businesses that have previously benefited from the CARES Act or other grants are still eligible for the new grant.

CalOSBA said applicants who submitted their application and all documentation in the first round do not need to reapply for the second round; qualified applications will be automatically rolled over into the next funding round for consideration.

To learn more about the grant requirements and eligibility, visit www.careliefgrant.com.

In the meantime, the city of Pasadena and the Pasadena Community Foundation (PCF) this week said applications for Pasadena’s own Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program will open on Jan. 25. The program aims to provide pandemic-relief grant funding to brick and mortar small businesses impacted by COVID-19 in the form of reimbursement.

Under this program, approximately 50 reimbursable grants of $7,500 each will be extended to qualifying small businesses in the city. Funds for the program will come from the city’s annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocation, the announcement said.

PCF and the Pasadena Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will be conducting a virtual orientation about the program and post it on the PCF website prior to the opening of the application window. The orientation session will explain the program, the application process, and needed support documents for fund reimbursement.

In addition, the SBDC will be hosting a series of webinars to inform applicants and address questions about the application process.

To receive additional assistance on the application process, interested businesses are advised to sign up with the SBDC through www.pccsbdc.org/newclient.

For additional information regarding the city’s Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, call Kate Clavijo or Mike deHilster, PCF program officers, at (626) 796-2097 ext. 7 or ext. 5, or write to kclavijo@pasadenacf.org, or mdehilster@pasadenacf.org.

Pasadena-Based ExchangeRight Reports Nearly $17 Million in Charitable Contributions in 2020

Tue, 2021-01-12 12:05

The Pasadena-based real estate investment company ExchangeRight gifted $16.9 million to charity in 2020, the company announced Tuesday.

In total, the company has donated more than $41.2 million to charity, ExhangeRight said in a written statement.

One of the company’s managing partners, Joshua Ungerecht, said the company was proud to do what it could to help.

“My partners and I are honored to have been able to continue to support these and many other wonderful organizations during these tumultuous times when the aid and relief that they provide is especially needed,” he said. “Investing in these charities’ efforts reflects our passion to empower people to be secure, free, and generous, which extends beyond the investors, advisers, representatives, and team whom we serve to our communities as well.”

Causes supported by ExchangeRight include Saving Innocence, Zoe International, Union Rescue Mission, Door of Hope, International Justice Mission, Children’s Hunger Fund, Meals From the Heartland, Mentoring Alliance/Boys and Girls Clubs of East Texas, Lifeline Children’s Services, (Un)Adopted, I’m Me Orphanage Global Health Innovations and Walter Hoving Home, according to the company.

Pasadena Chipotle Part of ‘Coast To Coast Career Day’ on Thursday

Mon, 2021-01-11 14:14

Chipotle Mexican Grill will host a “Coast To Coast Career Day” on Thursday, with plans to hire 15,000 new workers for its restaurants across the United States, the Newport Beach-based company announced today.

The chain has three restaurants in Pasadena.

Although the pandemic has resulted in lost business for many companies, Chipotle officials said their model has allowed them to expand, ending 2020 with nearly 11,000 internal promotions and the possible addition of about 200 new restaurants coming soon.

“We are fortunate to be experiencing growth during this unique time and want to safely provide an opportunity for purpose-driven individuals to join us on our mission of cultivating a better world,” said Marissa Andrada,

Chipotle’s chief diversity, inclusion and people officer.

That could be welcome news to some of those who are out of work due to the pandemic — with an unemployment rate of 8.2% in California as of November, compared to 3.9% the year prior.

Company officials noted that 70% of their restaurant general managers have worked their way up through internal promotions. Additionally, Chipotle covered more than $13 million in college tuition costs and paid out $40 million in bonuses and assistance pay for its restaurant employees last year, according to the company.

Chipotle’s benefits program includes a bonus that allows employees the opportunity to earn an extra month’s worth of pay each year; access to mental health care and English as a second language courses for employees and their families; tuition reimbursement and debt-free college degrees; and free meals.

Those interested in the Jan. 14 hiring fair are required to register

in advance online to reserve an interview time at a participating local restaurant. Interviews will be conducted from 8 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, including mandatory masks and social distancing. Candidates should visit CoastToCoastCareerDay.com.

Chipotle, founded in Colorado by Steve Ells in 1993, has more than 2,700 restaurants and 94,000 employees in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. It is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all of its locations.

Many Pasadena Companies Undecided on Whether to Require COVID-19 Vaccination for Employees

Mon, 2021-01-11 10:26

While businesses are legally permitted, in general, to require employees to receive vaccination against COVID-19 before returning to the workplace in-person, many large companies in Pasadena say they’ve not yet reached a decision on the issue.

Guidelines issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month specified that employers may require employees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, but also must provide reasonable accommodations for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or due to religious beliefs. Officials have previously issued similar guidelines for other vaccines, such as that for influenza.

Ramit Mizrahi, principal attorney at the Pasadena-based employment law firm Mizrahi Law, said, for the most part, companies are within their legal rights to mandate their employees receive COVID-19 vaccines.

“Employers, I think, largely will be able to mandate this,” she said. “When employees who are healthy have no allergies or disabilities, have no sincerely held religious practice or belief [against vaccination], I think that mandating it will pass muster.”

“When there’s a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, there will have to be a reasonable accommodation analysis. There may be positions where the person, for health reasons, can’t be vaccinated, but there are alternative positions that may be open and available to them, or they may be able to do their job remotely,” according to Mizrahi. “If there isn’t, then, unfortunately, I think that they may not be able to return to their jobs.”

“Otherwise,  people who just say, ‘I don’t want to take this’ — I think that the employers in those situations will be able to say, ‘Then we’re going to keep you out of the workplace until this threat is passed,’” she said.

With the widespread public availability of the vaccine still in the future, many employers in Pasadena said they have not yet made a decision with respect to mandatory vaccinations for employees.

Kaiser Permanente representatives said the company did not plan to make vaccination mandatory.

“Kaiser Permanente encourages its staff and physicians to get the vaccine for their safety and the safety of others, but will not mandate it,” the company said in a written statement.

Officials at another large employer in the city, Green Dot Corp., said since the business has transitioned entirely to remote work, “this is not an issue we’re focused on in the near-term.”

Other employers, including Wescom, Fuller Seminary, Pasadena City College, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said a decision was yet to be made on a vaccination policy.

More information related to COVID-19 and employment law can be found online at the EEOC’s website at https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws.