WeWork sells social network Meetup to AlleyCorp, private investors

(Reuters) – Social media platform Meetup said on Monday that shared-office operator WeWork had sold the company to a group of investors led by AlleyCorp, which funds companies in New York.

Meetup, a social network with 49 million members that encourages people to get together in person, was acquired by WeWork in 2017.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, while WeWork declined to comment on the deal value.

The sale comes as SoftBank Group-backed (9984.T) WeWork told investors on Thursday the $4.4 billion in cash and cash commitments it had at the end of 2019 is enough to execute its five-year plan and manage the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis.

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Opinion | Let’s Turn Hotels into Quarantine Quarters

Asking the mildly ill to self-isolate at home only endangers other people in their households.

By Carl Minzner

Mr. Minzner is a law professor.

New York City today is like Wuhan, the city in central China with the first known Covid-19 outbreak, in late January.

And now that the United States is facing its own epidemic, federal and state authorities are experimenting with many of the same tactics adopted by the Chinese authorities: vast lockdowns, sweeping travel restrictions, bans on public gatherings and mandatory social-distancing measures.

But they are omitting one crucial element of what helped make Wuhan’s response effective in the end: a form of centralized quarantine.

In late January, the authorities in Wuhan were essentially doing what New York authorities are doing today: For fear that hospitals would become overloaded with patients, they discouraged some sick people, especially the mildly sick, from even seeking hospital care. Only, there is a serious problem with that approach: Sending thousands of sick people home all but ensures that they will infect other people in their households.

That’s what happened in Wuhan. And that is almost certainly what is happening in New York — possibly other American cities, too — right now.

The Chinese authorities, after recognizing the danger, quickly shifted tactics. Starting in early February, they built a series of quarantine centers, including roughly 20 facilities with about 1,000 beds each, just in Wuhan, a city of about 11 million people. The mildly sick were sent there for two weeks, while patients with serious complications were to be treated in hospitals.

Not only did the measure help ease the burden on hospitals; it curbed transmission of the virus from the lightly ill to relatives, roommates, friends or anyone else sharing their living spaces.

In Wuhan, the move was critical to breaking the back of the epidemic in less than two months: Those mass isolation centers have all closed down.

New York, like other American cities, is now trying to rapidly build up capacity to handle large numbers of patients. A temporary field hospital is scheduled to open on Monday in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, with a capacity of nearly 3,000 beds; it is being set up to treat non-Covid-19 patients so as to allow mainstream facilities to focus on patients infected with the new coronavirus. Four other temporary medical facilities — with a total of 4,000 beds — are currently being planned for New York’s other boroughs.

Yet new confirmed cases in the city numbered roughly 3,500 on Sunday alone. Faced with such a rapid increase, the lightly ill in the city will almost certainly be asked to keep staying at home — which only risks spreading the virus even more.

There is another solution, though: Using the tens of thousands of hotel rooms in the city, many of which currently are empty, to house people who have tested positive for the coronavirus or — given the dearth of available tests — who display mild Covid-19-like symptoms. Let’s turn hotels into temporary quarantine quarters.

Patients would be put up for free for 14 days, the standard recommended period of self-isolation. Food could be delivered. Nurses could be stationed at the hotels to check on the people who are quarantined, in particular to ensure that anyone who develops more severe symptoms can be rapidly taken to a hospital. Any member of one’s household who subsequently tested positive could move in.

Congress recently authorized hundreds of millions of dollars of stimulus spending to combat the epidemic. Some of those funds could help finance a crash campaign to help hotels — not only in New York, but throughout the country — convert themselves into quarantine centers.

At least four New York City hotels have already volunteered to provide rooms to medical personnel or patients who aren’t critically ill; Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York State, has praised their gesture. Now, state and city authorities must actively encourage more such efforts by directly compensating hotel owners who agree to turn their premises into quarantine facilities.

Los Angeles County authorities experimented with just that last week, opening a quarantine center at a Sheraton hotel in Pomona, with plans for more emergency arrangements at other hotels. Chicago is also reported to be planning on reserving some 1,000 hotel rooms in the city to ease pressure on hospitals.

New York City authorities should also organize to have public health officials train hotel employees about how to safely interact with self-isolated individuals: how to deliver meals, disinfect rooms or handle people with pneumonia like symptoms. (Taiwan has prepared a detailed guide for such procedures. Why not New York?)

Some people are sure to resist any move toward centralized quarantining: It does raise difficult questions about individual rights. For example, should the measure be mandatory, as it was in China? Would the police be made to enforce it, and how?

But there is good reason to believe that people who are ill with Covid-19, or who fear that they might be, would voluntarily quarantine themselves outside their own homes, even if the authorities didn’t require them to: Many are terrified of infecting family members, friends and others. So why not make it possible for them to undergo quarantine without endangering anyone else, all the while using resources already on hand? Let’s convert New York’s hotels — including yours, Mr. President — into temporary self-isolation facilities.

Carl Minzner is a professor of law at Fordham University, in New York, who specializes in Chinese law and politics.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

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Opinion | How America Can Reopen

If summer is to bring any sense of normalcy, the country’s leaders must act quickly.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Three months into a global pandemic that is straining the fabric of America’s society, political leaders say that the nation is facing a stark choice between economic prosperity and the preservation of human life. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has given voice to the sentiments of many by insisting that every life is priceless and that the government must be prepared to sacrifice prosperity to prevent deaths. “We will not put a dollar figure on human life,” he declared.

Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, took the opposite view last week, arguing that Americans should go back to work even if that causes the deaths of their grandparents, whom he suggested would willingly sacrifice their lives for the sake of economic growth. President Trump grudgingly agreed Sunday night to extend the federal government’s social distancing guidelines until the end of April, but he too has made clear that he believes efforts to save lives will come at the expense of the economy.

This is a false choice. While policymakers must sometimes make trade-offs between life and money, this is not such a moment. The American economy needs to be shut down in order to preserve both human life and long-term prosperity. During the 1918 influenza pandemic, communities that quickly imposed stringent measures not only saved lives but experienced stronger economic rebounds, according to a new study. The message is clear: Coronavirus is a danger to life and prosperity; a strong public health response is the needed corrective.

It increasingly appears necessary that for the next eight weeks, and possibly for longer, all nonessential businesses should be closed, domestic travel restricted and the “shelter-in-place” measures being employed by some parts of the country extended to the rest. Such a shutdown will be enormously expensive in the short term, likely requiring fresh rounds of federal aid on top of the $2.2 trillion Congress approved on Friday. But scientists say that based on what they’ve learned from Europe and Asia, that’s the only way to get the virus, which is spreading like wildfire across the country, under control.

Those extreme measures still will not end the epidemic completely. But the United States cannot long endure in a state of suspended animation, nor can the nation easily bear the cost of repeated lockdowns. That’s why it is also critical to fund and implement the safety measures necessary to let Americans get back to work, school and play without a recrudescence of the virus.

In fact, a nationwide lockdown should be seen as only the first step in a long fight that will proceed at a different pace in different parts of the country. In New York, where doctors and nurses dressed in trash bags and bandannas are desperately fighting to contain the virus even as bodies pile up, the crisis is upon us. In three weeks, when case counts in New York may be peaking, outbreaks in other parts of the country might just be entering a phase of deadly exponential growth. The virus may complicate matters even further by receding in late spring or summer, only to re-emerge in the fall or winter.

We need to prepare for what’s ahead.

Test, Test, Test

The virus will almost certainly re-emerge as individual states and cities start to lift the strictures of social distancing and shelter-in-place — but, ideally, that re-emergence will look more like a string of smaller brush fires than one raging forest fire. Health officials will not be able to detect those brush fires, or keep them from growing, without diagnostic tests. They will need enough tests both to survey the population at random and to diagnose patients who experience symptoms. They will also need the capacity to isolate those who test positive, and to identify, quarantine and monitor their contacts. If those contacts develop symptoms, they’ll need to be able to test them, too.

To build such capacity, the federal government will have to invest in the nation’s undervalued and deeply strained public health system: more funding will be crucial, but it will not be enough. State and federal leaders should work together, now, to create a public works corps to assist epidemiologists with contact tracing, to erect thousands of drive-through testing sites, and to do the work of infection control in nursing homes and homeless shelters. Some states are already doing this on their own, but others will need federal funding — perhaps in the form of block grants.

Antibody tests, which can determine whether someone has been exposed to the virus and may therefore be immune, will help get people back to work safely, allowing individuals and public health authorities to gauge who can proceed without worry, and who needs to take additional precautions. Scientists, in America and elsewhere, have already developed such tests. The federal government should orchestrate production of the tests in the necessary numbers.

Public health authorities also should oversee the creation of temperature checkpoints outside of factories and office buildings, and in other close-packed or high-traffic places — and those measures should be increased anytime disease detectives find the hint of a brewing outbreak. This will take a combination of state-level mandates and aggressive public advertising campaigns. People hate being told what to do, never more so than when it comes to their own bodies; clear and consistent messages will help mitigate the predictable pushback.

Get Producing

The Trump administration’s initial reluctance to treat the coronavirus as a serious threat, and its deference to corporations, has left the United States badly behind in producing needed supplies and equipment like ventilators, intensive care unit beds, masks, swabs, gowns and gloves.

After weeks of costly hesitation, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on Friday to require General Motors to produce ventilators. It is a welcome step, but more is required. The administration must act to expand production of other needed supplies, too, both to deal with outbreaks happening now and to prepare for hot spots that are sure to emerge. Some companies are producing these supplies, but those efforts remain inadequate and uncoordinated. Only the White House can provide the necessary leadership.

Hospitals around the country will also need surge capacity — the physical space to isolate and treat contagious patients and to make use of additional beds and ventilators — for many months to come. States like New York and Washington have been forced to build this capacity mid-crisis, by calling on the National Guard and pleading with the federal government for support. Other states should be planning now for the same life-or-death struggle.

Track and Share Data

As new outbreaks pop up, experts will need data to guide their decision making. Information — on hospital capacity and viral spread, among other things — that is centrally located, regularly updated and readily available will be essential to figuring out when or whether social distancing or other measures need to be implemented again.

So far, no such system exists. As a result, most local governments don’t have efficient ways to track supplies of personal protective equipment or monitor and publicly report their hospital and I.C.U. capacity. What should the chronically ill in a given region do during an outbreak? Where should those with asthma go if they have an attack? The fact that most Americans don’t know the answers to those questions is dangerous and inexcusable in an era of such data abundance.

Some scientists are working to rectify that problem — to create the apps and websites that such a crisis demands. But those efforts will only be useful if they are brought to scale quickly. That, too, will take federal oversight and financial support.

There is no shortage of analogies for how to think about these components of the long-term response: It’s a Marshall Plan, an Apollo mission and a New Deal all rolled into one. However this is framed, it needs to happen fast for the sake of both the economy and the public’s health. “The half measures we’re taking now are doing real harm to people’s livelihoods without doing as much as they could to slow the virus,” says Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development.

It will be difficult to explain these past few weeks to future generations — how terror and complacency sat so close together, how despite years of warnings from global experts and weeks of signaling from Asia and Europe, America’s leaders failed to prepare for the inevitable, and how even as sickness and death surpassed the capacity of hospitals and funeral homes, they did not act decisively.

There is still a chance to avoid the worst outcomes, but time is short.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

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Tegna says coronavirus outbreak weighs on sale talks

(Reuters) – Tegna Inc (TGNA.N) said on Sunday that two potential acquirers had ended deal discussions with the U.S. regional TV station operator following the “market dislocation” fueled by the global coronavirus outbreak.

The two parties that informed Tegna they would no longer engage in negotiations were peer Gray Television Inc (RTN.N) and private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc (APO.N), according to people familiar with the matter.

Tegna said in a statement that the two parties “made their proposals shortly before the recent market dislocation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and both subsequently informed TEGNA that they were ceasing discussions.”

Reuters reported earlier this month that Gray had withdrawn a cash-and-stock offer that valued Tegna at $8.5 billion, including debt, amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic’s financial impact and a steep decline in Gray’s shares.

Apollo, whose assets include 13 TV stations and 54 radio stations that it acquired from Cox Enterprises Inc last year, also informed Tegna last week it would not go forward with its all-cash bid. That offer also valued Tegna at $8.5 billion, including debt, the equivalent of $20 per share.

Media investor Byron Allen and a consortium led by private investment firm Najafi Companies and Trinity Broadcasting Network, which had also bid $20 per share for Tegna, remain interested in a deal, according to the sources.

Yet without referring to them by name, Tegna said on Sunday those two parties had not signed confidentiality agreements to enable due diligence, and had not delivered any information on financing sources.

The sources requested anonymity to discuss confidential details of the negotiations. Apollo, Gray, Allen, Najafi and Trinity Broadcasting Network did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The board has been, and remains, willing to consider transactions that create compelling value, and our focus now is on helping management navigate through an unprecedented environment,” Tegna Chairman Howard Elias said in a statement.

Tegna’s announcement is a blow to Standard General, a hedge fund that owns roughly 9.7% of Tegna and has been calling for it to sell itself. Standard General is asking Tegna shareholders to vote for its five nominees to Tegna’s 12-member board in the company’s annual shareholder meeting on April 30.

Standard General did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the regional TV sector is benefiting from increased political advertising this year ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, TV advertising budgets have been in decline as media consumption shifts to the internet and online streaming. The decline has accelerated as the coronavirus outbreak weighs on consumer spending.

Tegna, a spinoff of Gannett Co Inc’s (GCI.N) broadcasting and digital arm, runs 62 television stations in 51 U.S. markets, and reaches 39% of television households in the United States.

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