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A program that boosted rapid testing in Canada will try to do the same in the U.S.

A team of Canadian researchers who brought together some of that country’s largest businesses to scale up a rapid coronavirus testing program is now trying to replicate its success in the United States, with the aim of reviving the economy and getting thousands of Americans back to work.

The organizers of the new program, called the U.S. Rapid Action Consortium, will announce on Wednesday that they are trying to recruit 12 companies to screen asymptomatic employees with rapid antigen tests on a routine basis. Four companies have signed on so far, including Air Canada and Scotiabank. Both participate in the Canadian program, which also began with 12 firms and has grown to include 400.

The consortium hopes that by joining forces, companies in the United States will be able to increase their purchasing power and quickly learn how to use rapid tests to prevent outbreaks and reopen shuttered businesses.

“Industry is essentially saying, ‘We need to act now. This remains a crisis for us. Every day that our employees are not at work is another day that our business isn’t optimized,’” said Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard University epidemiologist and expert in rapid testing who has been asked to advise the group.

Creative Destruction Lab, which helps science and technology start-ups. In the United States, the lab is partnering with Covid Collaborative, a bipartisan association of policy experts, and Genpact, a global professional services firm that has operations in Texas and is also involved in the Canadian effort.

“The ultimate goal is to take the cost of this down dramatically and just reopen the economy much faster and for our employees, make it a safe place to come to work,” Darren Saumur, Genpact’s global operating officer, said in an interview.

In Canada, where the program has been running for two months, employees periodically stop into screening stations set up outside their workplaces and take rapid antigen tests.

These tests are relatively cheap and can return results in 15 minutes, but are less sensitive and more prone to false negatives than polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., tests that are the gold standard for detecting the coronavirus. Employees who test positive on the rapid antigen test are referred for a follow-up P.C.R. test.

Between January 11 and March 18, the Canadian program administered more than 21,000 rapid tests across 42 different sites. Just 19 returned positive results; of those, 16 were confirmed as positive by P.C.R. testing, consortium officials say.

Participating companies must pay for their own tests, but the consortium will provide a detailed “playbook” to help companies set up their programs, as well as operational support. Companies that participate in the first cohort will be asked to help the next group of companies implement their programs.

“You have to promise that you’re going to pay it forward,” Mr. Agrawal said.

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The Week in Business: Go Ahead, Put Off Your Taxes

Good morning and happy spring. Here’s hoping you can enjoy another Sunday spent ignoring your tax returns (or, if you’ve already done them, feeling smug about it). But first, here’s what you need to know in business and tech news for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Good news for procrastinators like me, or anyone whose taxes were complicated by the pandemic: The Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline to file taxes by one month, to May 17. The extra time will help people navigate new tax rules that took effect with the passage of the American Rescue Plan. The law made the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits tax-free for people who earned less than $150,000 last year, a significant benefit for many people whose jobs were disrupted. But if you’ve already filed, don’t worry — the I.R.S. said it would automatically send those refunds to people who qualify.

Relations between China and the Biden administration got off to a rocky start last week at the first face-to-face meeting between diplomats. The United States set a confrontational tone on the eve of the talks by imposing sanctions on 24 Chinese officials for undermining democracy in Hong Kong. In turn, China’s top diplomat accused his American counterparts of being “condescending,” among other claims. The purpose of the three-day meeting, according to President Biden’s team, was to find common ground on climate change and on controlling the pandemic, and to address U.S. concerns about Chinese trade and military encroachments. The tension does not bode well for making headway in future negotiations.

suing the Walt Disney Company for what they call “rampant gender pay discrimination” have added another accusation to their list: that Disney “maintains a strict policy of pay secrecy.” A new section of the lawsuit refers to an episode in which one female Disney employee was “disciplined for disclosing her pay to co-workers.” Pay transparency is considered an important part of closing racial and gender wage gaps, and retaliation for discussing your own salary violates California law as well as the National Labor Relations Act. Disney has denied the claims and vowed to defend itself.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Walmart is jumping on the vaccine passport bandwagon, saying it will provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to anyone who gets vaccinated at one of its stores or at Sam’s Club. The retailer will develop a health passport app that people can use to verify their status at airports, schools, sports arenas and other potentially crowded places. Walmart joins an existing push by major health centers and tech companies, including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and the Mayo Clinic, as well as a proposal from the European Union, which would require vaccine verification for travel in certain areas.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?

Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.

Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.

Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.

Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.

Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.

Chief executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter will be grilled in Congress this Thursday, this time over their failure to crack down on the spread of misinformation. Tech executives were last summoned by lawmakers in November 2020, when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter faced a firestorm of questioning about content moderation, mostly regarding their attempts to prevent a wave of falsehoods about the presidential election. This time, they will be asked about coronavirus vaccine misinformation and about the election fraud conspiracy theories that continue to spread on their platforms.

The two biggest names in economic policy — the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — will make their first joint appearance this week when they testify before the House Financial Services Committee on the progress of pandemic relief efforts. The hearing comes one week after the Fed revised its economic outlook to project stronger growth and offered more reassurances that it would keep interest rates near zero for the coming years.

jettisoned a Trump-era policy that limited debt relief for students who were defrauded by for-profit educational institutions. The newly hired Teen Vogue editor, Alexi McCammond, resigned over racist and homophobic tweets that she posted a decade ago. And retail sales dropped 3 percent in February as consumers grappled with declining stimulus effects and devastating winter storms.

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Learning Apps Have Boomed During the Pandemic. Now Comes the Real Test

After a tough year of toggling between remote and in-person schooling, many students, teachers and their families feel burned out from pandemic learning. But companies that market digital learning tools to schools are enjoying a coronavirus windfall.

Venture and equity financing for education technology start-ups has more than doubled, surging to $12.58 billion worldwide last year from $4.81 billion in 2019, according to a report from CB Insights, a firm that tracks start-ups and venture capital.

During the same period, the number of laptops and tablets shipped to primary and secondary schools in the United States nearly doubled to 26.7 million, from 14 million, according to data from Futuresource Consulting, a market research company in Britain.

“We’ve seen a real explosion in demand,” said Michael Boreham, a senior market analyst at Futuresource. “It’s been a massive, massive sea change out of necessity.”

co-founded Blackboard, now one of the largest learning management systems for schools and colleges. “You can’t train hundreds of thousands of teachers and millions of students in online education and not expect there to be profound effects.”

Tech evangelists have long predicted that computers would transform education. The future of learning, many promised, involved apps powered by artificial intelligence that would adjust lessons to children’s abilities faster and more precisely than their human teachers ever could.

improve students’ outcomes.

Instead, during the pandemic, many schools simply turned to digital tools like videoconferencing to transfer traditional practices and schedules online. Critics say that push to replicate the school day for remote students has only exacerbated disparities for many children facing pandemic challenges at home.

“We will never again in our lifetime see a more powerful demonstration of the conservatism of educational systems,” said Justin Reich, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies online learning and recently wrote the book “Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education.”

Apps that enable online interactions between teachers and students are reporting extraordinary growth, and investors have followed.

Among the biggest deals, CB Insights said: Zuoyebang, a Chinese ed-tech giant that offers live online lessons and homework help for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, raised a total of $2.35 billion last year from investors including Alibaba and Sequoia Capital China.

Yuanfudao, another Chinese tutoring start-up, raised a total of $3.5 billion from investors like Tencent. And Kahoot, a quiz app from Norway used by millions of teachers, recently raised about $215 million from SoftBank.

raised $100 million. Now Newsela is valued at $1 billion, a milestone that may be common among consumer apps like Instacart and Deliveroo but is still relatively rare for education apps aimed at American public schools.

Nearpod also reported exponential growth. After making the video lesson app free, the start-up saw its user base surge to 1.2 million teachers at the end of last year — a fivefold jump over 2019. Last month, Nearpod announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Renaissance, a company that sells academic assessment software to schools, for $650 million.

Some consumer tech giants that provided free services to schools also reaped benefits, gaining audience share and getting millions of students accustomed to using their product.

more than 150 million students and educators, up from 40 million early last year. And Zoom Video Communications says it has provided free services during the pandemic to more than 125,000 schools in 25 countries.

But whether tools that teachers have come to rely on for remote learning can maintain their popularity will hinge on how useful the apps are in the classroom.

Nesi Harold, an eighth-grade science teacher in the Houston area, have used features on the app to poll students, create quizzes or ask students to use a drawing tool to sketch the solar system — digital tools that work for both live classroom and remote instruction.

“It allows me to broadcast the lesson to all of my learners, no matter where they are,” said Ms. Harold, who simultaneously teaches in-person and remote students.

one complaint: She can’t store more than a few lessons at a time on Nearpod because her school hasn’t bought a license. “It’s still pricey,” she said.

The future in education is less clear for enterprise services, like Zoom, that were designed for business use and adopted by schools out of pandemic necessity.

In an email, Kelly Steckelberg, Zoom’s chief financial officer, said she expected educational institutions would invest in “new ways to virtually communicate” beyond remote teaching — such as using Zoom for Parent Teacher Association meetings, school board meetings and parent-teacher conferences.

Mr. Chasen, the ed-tech entrepreneur, is counting on it. He recently founded Class Technologies, a start-up that offers online course management tools — like attendance-taking and grading features — for educators and corporate trainers holding live classes on Zoom. The company has raised $46 million from investors including Bill Tai, one of the earliest backers of Zoom.

“I’m not coming up with some new advanced A.I. methodology,” Mr. Chasen said of his new app for video classrooms. “You know what teachers needed? They needed the ability to hand out work in class, give a quiz and grade it.”

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Learning Apps Have Boomed in the Pandemic. Now Comes the Real Test.

After a tough year of toggling between remote and in-person schooling, many students, teachers and their families feel burned out from pandemic learning. But companies that market digital learning tools to schools are enjoying a coronavirus windfall.

Venture and equity financing for education technology start-ups has more than doubled, surging to $12.58 billion worldwide last year from $4.81 billion in 2019, according to a report from CB Insights, a firm that tracks start-ups and venture capital.

During the same period, the number of laptops and tablets shipped to primary and secondary schools in the United States nearly doubled to 26.7 million, from 14 million, according to data from Futuresource Consulting, a market research company in Britain.

“We’ve seen a real explosion in demand,” said Michael Boreham, a senior market analyst at Futuresource. “It’s been a massive, massive sea change out of necessity.”

co-founded Blackboard, now one of the largest learning management systems for schools and colleges. “You can’t train hundreds of thousands of teachers and millions of students in online education and not expect there to be profound effects.”

Tech evangelists have long predicted that computers would transform education. The future of learning, many promised, involved apps powered by artificial intelligence that would adjust lessons to children’s abilities faster and more precisely than their human teachers ever could.

improve students’ outcomes.

Instead, during the pandemic, many schools simply turned to digital tools like videoconferencing to transfer traditional practices and schedules online. Critics say that push to replicate the school day for remote students has only exacerbated disparities for many children facing pandemic challenges at home.

“We will never again in our lifetime see a more powerful demonstration of the conservatism of educational systems,” said Justin Reich, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies online learning and recently wrote the book “Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education.”

Apps that enable online interactions between teachers and students are reporting extraordinary growth, and investors have followed.

Among the biggest deals, CB Insights said: Zuoyebang, a Chinese ed-tech giant that offers live online lessons and homework help for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, raised a total of $2.35 billion last year from investors including Alibaba and Sequoia Capital China.

Yuanfudao, another Chinese tutoring start-up, raised a total of $3.5 billion from investors like Tencent. And Kahoot, a quiz app from Norway used by millions of teachers, recently raised about $215 million from SoftBank.

raised $100 million. Now Newsela is valued at $1 billion, a milestone that may be common among consumer apps like Instacart and Deliveroo but is still relatively rare for education apps aimed at American public schools.

Nearpod also reported exponential growth. After making the video lesson app free, the start-up saw its user base surge to 1.2 million teachers at the end of last year — a fivefold jump over 2019. Last month, Nearpod announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Renaissance, a company that sells academic assessment software to schools, for $650 million.

Some consumer tech giants that provided free services to schools also reaped benefits, gaining audience share and getting millions of students accustomed to using their product.

more than 150 million students and educators, up from 40 million early last year. And Zoom Video Communications says it has provided free services during the pandemic to more than 125,000 schools in 25 countries.

But whether tools that teachers have come to rely on for remote learning can maintain their popularity will hinge on how useful the apps are in the classroom.

Nesi Harold, an eighth-grade science teacher in the Houston area, have used features on the app to poll students, create quizzes or ask students to use a drawing tool to sketch the solar system — digital tools that work for both live classroom and remote instruction.

“It allows me to broadcast the lesson to all of my learners, no matter where they are,” said Ms. Harold, who simultaneously teaches in-person and remote students.

one complaint: She can’t store more than a few lessons at a time on Nearpod because her school hasn’t bought a license. “It’s still pricey,” she said.

The future in education is less clear for enterprise services, like Zoom, that were designed for business use and adopted by schools out of pandemic necessity.

In an email, Kelly Steckelberg, Zoom’s chief financial officer, said she expected educational institutions would invest in “new ways to virtually communicate” beyond remote teaching — such as using Zoom for Parent Teacher Association meetings, school board meetings and parent-teacher conferences.

Mr. Chasen, the ed-tech entrepreneur, is counting on it. He recently founded Class Technologies, a start-up that offers online course management tools — like attendance-taking and grading features — for educators and corporate trainers holding live classes on Zoom. The company has raised $46 million from investors including Bill Tai, one of the earliest backers of Zoom.

“I’m not coming up with some new advanced A.I. methodology,” Mr. Chasen said of his new app for video classrooms. “You know what teachers needed? They needed the ability to hand out work in class, give a quiz and grade it.”

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Britain to Boost Nuclear Weapons Stockpile in Defense-Policy Shift

LONDON—The British government laid out plans to increase its stockpile of nuclear weapons as part of a shift in defense policy that recognizes that the world order it helped forge in the wake of World War II is crumbling.

Following its exit from the European Union last year, Britain is looking to carve its place in a more volatile and fragmented international system while bolstering its economy through greater global trade.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that requires the U.K. to become a nimble power broker with a greater sway in the Indo-Pacific region backed by an increase in domestic investment in science and technology.

“The fortunes of the British people are almost uniquely interlinked with events on the far side of the world,” Mr. Johnson told Parliament as he presented a blueprint for Britain’s post-Brexit foreign-policy aspirations. “The U.K. could never turn inwards or be content with the cramped horizons of a regional foreign policy,” he said.

Brexit has long been touted by government officials as a way for Britain to quickly adapt to global challenges unencumbered by the EU. The government’s 114-page review paints a gloomy picture for the coming decade.

The report warns globalization’s retreat, which began after the financial crisis, will continue to exacerbate divisions between nations. The use of novel chemical and nuclear weapons will also proliferate, the review says, as challenges to U.S. supremacy mount. “A defence of the status quo is no longer sufficient,” it concluded.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson left Downing Street ahead of making his statement in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Photo: Tayfun Salci/Zuma Press

Reflecting this outlook, Britain is bolstering its nuclear threat as a deterrent. Britain had been on track to reduce its nuclear warhead stockpile to not more than 180 warheads by the mid-2020s.

However, faced with growing threats, this ceiling will be lifted to not more than 260 warheads. The government will no longer provide figures on how many of the warheads are operational.

Currently, the U.K. has a stockpile of 190 warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Its stockpile will remain the lowest among the declared nuclear powers, which include neighboring France.

Some analysts questioned the move. After spending years railing against nuclear proliferation, raising this cap “is a major diplomatic mistake,” said Nick Witney, former chief executive of the European Defence Agency. “It provides greater arguments for proliferators around the world.”

After Brexit, a series of trade-offs loom. To pay for a new-look military, the U.K. will have to dial back spending on more conventional armed forces. It will bid to secure deeper relations in the Indo-Pacific region, even as officials say it won’t turn its back on Europe.

Underscoring this complex balance: Britain will aim to expand economic relations with China while criticizing its human rights record and trying to contain Beijing’s threat to Britain’s national security.

“We have a balance to strike,” said Mr. Johnson, adding that now wasn’t the time for a Cold War with China. This year the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to conduct patrols in disputed waters in the South China Sea amid rising tension with Beijing.

Much of the review is shaped by Britain’s experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the country’s reliance on extended global supply chains left it vulnerable to borders shutting down.

Meanwhile, its successful vaccine development and rollout has turned into a soft-power victory.

HMS Vigilant, one of the submarines that make up the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent, in Faslane, Scotland, in April 2019.

Photo: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Britain’s foreign policy will now be underpinned by a large-scale domestic spending program aimed at bolstering British research and development. The U.K. aims to direct at least £6.6 billion, equivalent to $9.18 billion, of defense funding over the next four years to areas including space, directed-energy weapons, and advanced high-speed missiles

“It feels like the U.K. approach is becoming more French and less liberal,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank. “It is putting more focus on our national technology base.” France has previously championed building up its domestic defense and technology capabilities.

How this overhaul is paid for will be detailed next week when the government outlines a series of cuts to the country’s military. Analysts expect the government to cut the number of soldiers, jet fighters and frigates to pay for the rejigger. But Britain’s finances are already stretched following the pandemic, raising questions over how or if the new strategy will be properly implemented, said Mr. Witney.

The review states that the U.S. will remain the U.K.’s most important ally both commercially and militarily. Britain will continue to view Russia as its number one adversary and Britain will try to build diplomatic ties in the Indo-Pacific region.

It has applied to become a partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and is seeking to join the trans-Pacific free-trade agreement. Mr. Johnson is due to visit India soon.

Last year, the U.K. government announced its biggest increase in military spending since the Cold War in a bid to secure its position as the U.S.’s main military ally in Europe after Brexit. The country will spend an additional £24.1 billion over the next four years compared with last year’s budget. This, the government says, reaffirms Britain’s attachment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Write to Max Colchester at max.colchester@wsj.com

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Some Scientists Question W.H.O. Inquiry Into the Coronavirus Pandemic’s Origins

Asked to respond to the letter, Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the W.H.O., replied in an email that the team of experts that had gone to China “is working on its full report as well as an accompanying summary report, which we understand will be issued simultaneously in a couple of weeks.”

The open letter noted that the W.H.O.’s study was a joint effort by a team of outside experts, selected by the global health organization, who worked along with Chinese scientists, and that the team’s report must be agreed on by all. The letter emphasized that the team was denied access to some records and did not investigate laboratories in China.

Findings by the team, the letter stated, “while potentially useful to a limited extent, represent neither the official position of the W.H.O. nor the result of an unrestricted, independent investigation.”

Without naming him, the letter criticized Peter Daszak, an expert in animal diseases and their connection to human health, who is the head of EcoHealth Alliance. The letter linked to articles about Dr. Daszak and said he had previously stated his conviction that a natural origin of the virus was most likely.

Dr. Daszak said the letter’s push to investigate a lab origin for the virus was a position “supported by political agendas.”

“I strongly urge the global community to wait for the publication of the report from the W. H.O. mission,” he added.

Filippa Lentzos, a senior lecturer in science and international security, at King’s College London, and one of the signers of the letter, said, “I think in order to get a credible investigation, it has to be more of a global effort in the sense that it should be taken to the U.N. General Assembly where all the nations of the world are represented and can vote on whether or not to give a mandate to the U.N. secretary general, to carry out this kind of investigation.”

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