May 15, 2020

Grassroots efforts driven by people passionate to help the most vulnerable in unusual ways. Just when times seem bleakest you’ll see stories about researchers discovering that llamas on one farm might have antibodies to fight the virus, swanky resorts turning their “farm to table” delights intended for paying guests into staples for the community, startups pitching new innovations to Medicaid organizations. And how about lending that camper or RV in your backyard to a healthcare worker in need of isolation?

This week’s tales about everyday people staying connected and keeping people safe can lift the spirit. And sometimes it’s time to just give a sigh of relief…have a seat…. and listen to a good story.

Calling all startups with potential solutions for vulnerable populations during COVID-19

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The COVID-19 health crisis has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable patient populations, as evidenced by higher infection and morbidity rates among low-income Black, Hispanic, and other minority communities relative to their counterparts. The disparity of COVID-19’s impact underlines the existing challenges experienced by Medicaid patient populations in unequal access to healthcare and social determinants of health services. Adaptation Health, a buyer-side incubator program in partnership with Acumen America and the Center for Health Care Strategies is offering virtual demo days in June for health startups to present their solutions during COVID-19 and beyond, to an audience of Medicaid and managed care leadership. The event aims to connect Medicaid leaders with critical health innovations and enable these leaders to champion and implement these early-stage products and services. Connecting startups addressing critical access and outcomes challenges to Medicaid stakeholders.  Companies that are accepted will have the opportunity to pitch their solutions to Medicaid buyers including State Medicaid offices, plan leadership, and key Medicaid experts. Deadline is May 22. Startups can apply here

Llamas could produce antibodies to fight COVID-19

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In previous scientific studies, researchers found that a llama named Winter produced antibodies that were effective in fighting SARS and MERS. Now researchers for VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology and the University of Texas at Austin have discovered that Winter, along with 130 other llamas on the same farm produce a certain antibody that appears to effectively neutralize the coronavirus. Vaccines can take years to develop and must be introduced into the body long before infection but antibody therapy can be used immediately. The drawback is it might only be effective for a month or two. They also caution the study is months away and they would have to determine whether it’s safe to inject llama antibodies into humans.

Have a spare camper or RV? Lend it to a healthcare worker to isolate

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It all began with a Facebook post by Emily Phillips in Texas. She wanted to find an RV for her husband, an ER doctor, to isolate after grueling shifts. A fellow Texan, Holly Haggard, offered hers and from there their partnership took off. The women built the simple Facebook group RVs 4 MDs and it’s grown into a robust volunteer organization. The group tries to connect donated RVs and campers to healthcare workers who need to isolate from their families and tries to place them near their home. There are 31 thousand members (and counting), complete with a board of directors and network of volunteers spanning across the nation.

Re-designing cities for the post-COVID world

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Urban planners globally are re-thinking the layouts and traffic patterns of cities. Grappling with how to accommodate social distancing and give people more space in the urban environment. Closing streets so restaurants can have more patio space and pedestrians and bicycles will reign instead of cars. The city of Oakland has closed 10% of the streets there. Some call it “reclaiming the streets”.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America are making community meals

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Boys & Girls Clubs of America is partnering with local chapters to get food to kids and families who may be most in need during this time when so many families may be out of work and hungry. In Silicon Valley, the chapter now offers community dinners every weeknight at the Redwood City and EPA Clubhouses. They currently offer 2,200+ to-go meals each night across both sites on a first come, first-served basis. In partnership with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, and also offer produce and grocery boxes weekly at each location.

Silicon Valley Med/Tech Task Force

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StartX, a non-profit community of serial entrepreneurs, industry experts, and tenured Stanford professors believes entrepreneurs can achieve more as a group, than as individuals. Now they’ve created the StartXMed Task Force. “Our role at StartX is to make sure that if someone does have a cure for something, that it doesn’t just become another paper that’s published in another journal,” said Joseph Huang, CEO of StartX. “If I want to take that all the way to impact real patients, I’ll have mentors and a community and infrastructure and support all the way through all the steps along the way.” StartX has startups that are developing devices for both medical professionals and everyday people.

Resort farms feed furloughed staff and nearby communities

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From Kauai to North Carolina, high-end resorts sporting farms on their properties, are harvesting produce that normally would have gone to the kitchen to feed guests for hefty prices. Now many are giving the food to furloughed staff members, food banks and sometimes selling it in pop-up farm stands in local communities.

Atlanta Woman uses tech to feed the needy and is on a mission to put an end to food waste nationwide

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Jasmine Crowe is the founder and CEO of Goodr, an Atlanta-based company that fights food waste picking up surplus foods from local restaurants and stores and delivering them to hungry families.Since the coronavirus pandemic caused mass unemployment, leaving many families with empty wallets and bare cupboards. Crowe’s team has recently been delivering 250 boxes of groceries to people every day. With schools closed, an estimated 30,000 students need meals in just the Atlanta area alone. Goodr also organizes pop-up groceries stores that allow people in need to shop for fresh produce and other items, free of charge.

Crowe knows that millions more across the US are going hungry, and is calling on government leaders for national reform to fix our food-waste problem. She believes the problem is not in food scarcity but in logistics. Rerouting extra food for those in need is essential. Her company’s technology helps businesses track and put their surplus food where it’s most needed.

AND NOW… put your feet up….relax…and listen

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Most everyone loves to have stories read out loud…good stories..not just stories of pandemics, death and dire economic predictions. The New York Times through their podcast series, The Daily, is providing a little coronavirus relief. Three of their journalists share stories that are giving them solace….and they read bits of what they find comforting. Enjoy!

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About the Author: Miriam Rivera

Miriam Rivera is co-founder and managing director of Ulu Ventures