EPA relaxes enforcement of environmental laws during the COVID-19 outbreak – TechCrunch

EPA relaxes enforcement of environmental laws during the COVID-19 outbreak – TechCrunch

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Thursday that it is temporarily relaxing enforcement of environmental regulations and fines during the COVID-19 outbreak. The “enforcement discretion policy” applies retroactively to March 13, with no end date set yet.

The new policy follows lobbying from industries including oil and gas, which told the Trump administration that relaxed regulations will allow them to more efficiently distribute fuel during the outbreak, but because it is broadly written, it could potentially influence companies’ actions in a large range of industries, including tech.

It may also create new challenges for researchers and scientists, since while the policy is in effect, companies are being asked only to make data from monitoring available to the EPA if requested by the agency.

The EPA said the policy “addresses different categories of noncompliance differently.” For example, the EPA said it will not seek penalties for noncompliance with monitoring and reporting “that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” but that it still expects public water systems to provide safe drinking water.

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes the challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” said EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler in the agency’s announcement.

The policy places more onus for adhering to environmental regulations on the private sector. Depending on how the policy is carried out and how long it lasts,

Watch ULA’s first dedicated rocket launch for the U.S. Space Force live – TechCrunch

Watch ULA’s first dedicated rocket launch for the U.S. Space Force live – TechCrunch

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has a mission today, launching a specialized secure communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force. That’s the new space-focused arm of the U.S. military that was officially formed last year in response to what the administration has characterized as a growing need to ensure America’s assets in space are properly defended.

The launch today is set to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with a lift-off time set for 2:57 PM EDT (11:57 AM PDT). The rocket carrying the satellite is an Atlas V, and the mission looks good to proceed as of Thursday morning in terms of both weather and systems checks.

This is the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite being launched for the military, but the previous five have all been deployed under the U.S. Air Force because the Space Force only came into existence officially last year. The first five satellites were launched between 2010 and 2019, and together all six will form a constellation that provides secure communications capabilities for military operations across air, land and sea.

This will be the 83rd launch of an Atlas V rocket, and the 11th in this particular configuration. The ULA, a joint venture formed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, currently has a 100 percent mission success rate, with a total of 133 launches under its belt.

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UK researchers develop new low-cost, rapid COVID-19 test that could even be used at home – TechCrunch

UK researchers develop new low-cost, rapid COVID-19 test that could even be used at home – TechCrunch

A new type of test developed by U.K. researchers from the Brunel University London, Lancaster University and the University of Surrey can provide COVID-19 detection in as little as 30 minutes using hand-held hardware that costs as little as £100 (around $120 USD) with individual swab sample kits that cost around $5 per person. The test is based on existing technology that has been used in the Philippines for testing viral spread in chickens, but it’s been adapted by researchers for use with COVID-19 in humans. The team is now working on ramping mass production.

This test would obviously need approval by local health regulatory bodies like the FDA before it goes into active use in any specific geography, but the researchers behind the project are “confident it will respond well,” and say they could even make it available for use “within a few weeks.” The hardware itself is battery-operated and connects to a smartphone application to display diagnostic results and works with nasal or throat swabs, without requiring that samples be round-tripped to a lab.

There are other tests already approved for use that use similar methods for on-site testing, including kits and machines from Cepheid and Mesa Biotech. These require expensive dedicated table-top micro-labs, however, which is installed in dedicated healthcare facilities. This test from U.K. scientists has the advantage of running on inexpensive hardware, with testing capabilities for up to six people at once, which can be deployed in doctor’s offices, hospitals and even potentially workplaces

Ford, 3M, GE and the UAW to build respirators, ventilators and faceshields for coronavirus fight – TechCrunch

Ford, 3M, GE and the UAW to build respirators, ventilators and faceshields for coronavirus fight – TechCrunch

Ford announced the details of its current manufacturing efforts around building much-needed medical supplies for front-line healthcare workers and COVID-19 patients on Tuesday. Its efforts include building Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) with partner 3M, including a new design that employs existing parts from both partners to deliver effectiveness and highly-scalable production capacity.

Ford says that it’s also going to be building face shields, leaning on its 3D printing capabilities, with an anticipated production rate of over 100,000 units per week. These are key pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) used by frontline healthcare staff to protect them against virus-containing droplets that are spread by patients through coughing and sneezing in clinical settings. The company has designed a new face shield, which will be tested with the first 1,000 units this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals in Michigan to evaluate their efficacy. Provided they perform as planned, Ford anticipates scaling to building 75,000 by end of week, with 100,000 able to be made in one of the company’s Plymouth, MI production facilities each week thereafter.

The automaker is also going to be working with GE on expanding production capacity for GE Healthcare’s ventilator, with a simplified design that should allow for higher volume production. That’s part of a response to a U.S. government request for more units to support healthcare needs, the company said. On top of its U.S.-focused ventilator project with GE, Ford is also working on a separate effort to

Uber, Ola suspend all rides in India’s capital – TechCrunch

Uber, Ola suspend all rides in India’s capital – TechCrunch

Uber and Ola have suspended all ride options in Delhi till March 31 and the Indian ride-hailing firm is restricting ride options across the country in a bid to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

The firms said the suspension of their services in India’s capital was in compliance with the local state government’s lockdown order that went into effect earlier Monday.

“In compliance with the government guidelines, we are temporarily suspending all Uber services in your city. This means that Uber rides services will not be available until further notice,” Uber told customers in New Delhi.

A spokesperson for Uber, which suspended shared ride options across in India on Saturday, confirmed the move.

Ola, which rivals Uber in India, said it was additionally also restricting ride options across the country but would offer a “minimal network of vehicles to support essential services.”

“Ola will continue to encourage citizens to limit travel only for essential emergency needs as per the Government’s directive. We will enable a minimal network of vehicles to support essential services in cities, wherever applicable, as part of this national effort to reduce the contagion of COVID-19,” an Ola spokesperson said.

TechCrunch understands that Ola is offering very few cabs across the country only to support healthcare workers and others who need to work from outside their homes to support public services.

It’s unclear how Uber and Ola are supporting their affected drivers. According to estimates, more than 150,000 Uber and Ola cabs roam around the National Capital