Due to the impact of the COVID-19, those who need to see a doctor are just as likely to go online as drive to an office during the pandemic. One local company benefiting from the explosion in telehealth is San Diego-based telehealth startup AristaMD, which recently announced that it had closed a $24 million series B venture capital round to expand is fast-growing business lines.

The investment was led by Boston-based .406 Ventures with Cigna Ventures and MemorialCare Innovation Fund joining in the round. Also participating was San Diego’s very own Avalon Ventures, in addition to CU Healthcare Innovation Fund and Stanford Health Care. St, Louis venture firm Ascension Ventures, which represents 13 of the nation’s leading nonprofit health systems, also participated in the round.

The company noted in its funding announcement that since the pandemic struck, outpatient hospital visits have declined 31%. What’s more, preventative screenings for cervix, colon and breast cancer have dropped 86% to 94% when compared to the last three years. AristaMD is led by veteran executive Brooke LeVasseur.

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The local office of commercial real estate broker Colliers International has some relatively positive news for the regional economy roiling from the impact of the pandemic. There was only a slight downtick in demand for commercial space, according to a survey of leasing activity. The survey found a second consecutive quarter of negative net absorption countywide — 214,665 square feet. Countywide the overall vacancy number increased to 11% from 10.7% in the first quarter. But rental rates held. Class A average asking rental rates increased to $3.43 per square foot per month — a 3 cent increase for the quarter. The overall average rates for all classes increased 2 cents to $2.93 per square foot per month — the highest rate on record. Industrial office space leasing is another story. Countywide overall vacancy increased to 11% compared to 10.7% in the first quarter. The survey indicates that at the current rate of absorption and construction the year could be the first to end with a net negative absorption since Great Recession of 2009.

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Some really good nonprofit news earlier this month. Local public company Neurocrine Biosciences offered Father Joe’s Villages up to $200,000 in a matching gift, which resulted in a total donation of $435,000 for the nine-day period from June 25 to July 4. Neurocrine matched all donations up to $200,000 from June 25 to July 4. All donations received under the matching grant will enable the nonprofit to continue serving the region’s homeless population. Neurocrine’s chief corporate affairs officer David Boyer presented the check to Deacon Jim Vargas after the successful fund raise.

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Second Chance, a 27-year-old local nonprofit specializing in workforce readiness training and counseling for those once in jail or prison, now finds demand for its services are skyrocketing as state and local agencies speed release of prisoners in the wake of the pandemic. The county Sheriff’s Department, to name one agency, has released 1,200 inmates as of last week. The cost to train one former inmate for job readiness is about $2,750, far less than the current $80K spent keeping prisoners locked up in California. The agencies success stories abound. Mistey Quevedo, for example, a 24-year-old local resident who served 10 years in a juvenile facility and a women’s prison in Chowchilla, is now working as a full-time grocery clerk, thanks to the training she has received from Second Chance.

Silvergate Rancho Bernardo

AmeriCare Health & Retirement, a new senior living facility in Rancho Bernardo, is nearly complete. Silvergate Rancho Bernardo, its 11-acre facility built by Ryan Companies, is 90% leased. The new site consists of 20 cottages, 108 apartments, six penthouse units and 48 memory care units, along with a clubhouse dedicated to amenities. Privately held AmeriCare owns and operates retirement communities and medical office buildings primarily in Southern California.

The San Diego County Bar Association releases the recipients for its annual 2020 Service Awards. They are:

  • Sharon Blanchet, ABC Family Law & Mediation Center, wins the outstanding attorney award for her contributions to the law profession;
  • Retired San Diego Superior Court Judge Gale Kaneshiro wins the outstanding jurist award for her service to the profession;
  • Commissioner Pennie McLaughlin, San Diego Superior Court and Rob Shields, Wilson, Turner & Kosmo, win the community service award;
  • Bhashini Weerasinghe, from the Law Office of Bhashini Weerasinghe, wins the service to diversity award;
  • Rosalina Spencer Leon, Legal Aid Society of San Diego, wins the public attorney award;
  • Valerie Garcia Hong, Garcia Hong Law APC, wins the Service to the legal community award;
  • Catherine Asuncion, from the law firm Klinedinst, wins the outstanding service by a new lawyer award; and
  • Jewish Family Service of San Diego wins the distinguished citizen or organization award.

The award winners will be recognized at the SDCBA’s Annual Awards Ceremony & Celebration of Community Service  on Sept. 30, which will be a virtual gathering of computer monitors due to the impact of Covid-19. Winners are nominated by their peers and reviewed and selected by the SDCBA’s Awards Committee, with approval of the agency’s board.

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Finally, some local restaurant operators have been able to move ahead despite the impact of the widespread closures … Straying not far from home. San Diego-based fast casual eatery QDOBA Mexican Eats is opening its first area location in San Diego’s Mission Valley in late September or early October. QDOBA currently operates more than 730 outlets across in states and Canada, according to a news release.

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The Pho Ca Dao Vietnamese Kitchen restaurant in Mission Valley is hosting a special industry day July 30 to thank hospitality industry workers for their efforts over the past several months. The restaurant is offering discounts on alcoholic beverages plus select chef choice dishes. All workers in the food and hospitality industry are invited!

Till next week…

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to tom.york@gmail.com.

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