Hundreds of employees of Bird, a scooter startup based in California, were laid off in a pre-recorded phone call on Friday as the company grapples with decreased demand amid the coronavirus epidemic.
“The unprecedented Covid-19 crisis has forced our leadership team and the board of directors to make many extremely difficult and painful decisions relating to some of your teammates”, the Bird CEO, Travis VanderZanden, wrote to staffers in a memo obtained by the Guardian.
The layoffs represent about 30% of the workforce of the shared scooter company. Bird confirmed the layoffs and said former employees will receive four weeks of pay and three months of health coverage.
The company did not respond to a request for comment regarding rumors the layoffs were carried out over a pre-recorded message on Zoom video conferencing.
Bird’s layoffs come as many shared transportation companies struggle in the face of a global pandemic. Lime scooters have suspended service in the Bay Area in light of health concerns and Gig car share took cars off the streets to clean them this week, before reinstating them on Friday.
Iranian minister calls for release of Iranian doctor in Ice custody
The current situation in America’s immigration detention centers is sparking international condemnation.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has called on the US to release Iranians jailed on sanctions-related issues as concerns about the spread of coronavirus are dramatically escalating. Citing the Guardian’s reporting on one Iranian scientist’s ongoing detention in an Louisiana, Zarif accused the US of taking “several Iranian scientists hostage” and keeping “innocent men jailed in horrific facilities”:
Dr Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor, was exonerated in a US sanctions trial last year, but remains jailed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). Speaking by phone from an Ice facility in Louisiana, he told the Guardian this week that the conditions inside were filthy and overcrowded, and officials were doing little to prevent a deadly Covid-19 outbreak:
After Asgari was acquitted on charges of stealing trade secrets, he tried to “self deport” back to Iran, but Ice has kept him indefinitely detained. Asgari said detainees at his facility have no hand sanitizer and that Ice is not regularly cleaning the bathrooms. For two weeks, he said Ice also refused to let him use a mask he had brought with him even though he has a history of respiratory problems.
In his tweet today, Zarif said the US was jailing Iranians “without charge or on spurious sanctions charges” and refusing to release them even when its OWN courts reject the absurd charges”.
Read more on Dr Asgari’s situation here:
Los Angeles CCs 200 people on Covid-19 testing results email
It appears the city of Los Angeles inadvertently notified more than 200 people about their Covid-19 results in a mass email that included the names of all recipients, according to LA Times reporter Soumya Karlamangla:
The mass email, which reportedly failed to blind copy the recipients, was informing them of negative results, according to a screenshot posted by Karlamangla, who noted this was a major privacy violation:
The email came from someone listed as a contract specialist for the mayor’s office of public safety, writing on behalf of the health department’s Covid-19 response team. Spokespeople for the mayor’s office did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment this afternoon.
Fact check: transition to online public school classes was not seamless
Besty DeVos, the education secretary, claimed in the White House briefing today that the transition to online classes had been “seamless”.
Fact: around 15% of households with school-age children don’t have internet at home, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 census data. In addition, 20% of teens told Pew researchers (in a separate survey) that they often or sometimes can’t complete homework assignments because they don’t have reliable access to the internet or a computer. Both reports found that affected students are more likely to be from low-income and minority families.
Angela Siefer, the executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, told City Lab: “The kids whose families do have internet connection are going to have at least some learning continuing during this period, and the kids who don’t won’t.”
Fact check: has Trump always taken coronavirus seriously?
Trump today switched from saying that the coronavirus pandemic was unpredictable (see news coverage yesterday), to again claiming he’d always taken it seriously: ‘I was the first one to say to China, when they had the problem, not to come in and that was a long time ago.’
In fact, at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat, inaccurately comparing it to the flu and told his supporters that growing worry about the coronavirus was a “hoax..
By the time Trump announced travel restrictions from China on 31 January, most major airlines had already suspended flights, following the lead of several major international carriers that had stopped due to the coronavirus outbreak.