Your Friday Update: Some Orange County, City of Orlando Summer Camps Will Start June 1; Florida in “Full Phase One” Starting Monday, Pickleball Returning To The Villages
Some Orange County, City of Orlando summer camps will start June 1
Danielle Prieur, WMFE
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced Friday that beginning June 1 children will be able to attend county Parks and Recreation summer camps on a limited basis.
Demings said each of the thirteen camps will have reduced capacity and require daily temperature checks according to Florida Department of Children and Families rules.
“Our thirteen summer camp sites will have different and limited capacity numbers as we move forward through the various phases of reopening this summer,” Demings said.
City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the city will also offer modified small group summer camps for elementary and middle school students. He said city staff have been trained in DCF and CDC guidelines.
“Children will be kept in the same small groups of ten or less through the duration of the summer camp ensuring the same children are with the same instructor every day. Each group will meet in a separate room and not interact with other groups. Cleaning and disinfecting efforts will be further intensified. Drop-off and pick-up procedures will take place outside the facilities and will include screenings and temperature checks.”
Orange County Head Start is accepting applications for the fall-the program provides free instruction and meals for children under the age of five.
Florida to be in full phase one of reopening by Monday
Brendan Rivers, WJCT
Governor Ron DeSantis says Florida will be in full phase one of reopening by Monday, after the state was effectively shut down to stop the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
DeSantis says that means restaurants, retail stores, museums, libraries, gyms, and fitness centers can all operate at 50 percent indoor capacity as long as staff and clients follow social distancing guidelines.
It also means that pro sports teams can resume training, sports venues can resume operation, and amusement parks can submit reopening plans to the state.
“It doesn’t mean the disease is gone, doesn’t mean that we’re not going to still have to do things to be able to protect the folks that are the most vulnerable. But the American people never signed up for a perpetual shelter in place, and we need to be able to get society functioning again,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis says bars aren’t included in federal phase one reopening guidelines, so they’ll remain closed for the time being, but counties can ask the state for short-term rentals like Airbnbs to be reauthorized.
He says he hasn’t made a decision on summer camps yet, but he expects to make that announcement in the near future.
Pickleball returns to The Villages on Monday
Joe Byrnes, WMFE
Recreation is returning in phases to The Villages retirement community.
And Monday marks another big step as pickleball, tennis and Ping Pong return, along with softball practice.
But things will be different.
Only half the courts will be open; players must bring their own equipment, water and chairs; and they must maintain social distancing.
They are asked to wear masks in the recreation centers and whenever they can’t stay six feet apart.
At least 35 people have died from COVID-19 in the three surrounding counties.
But recent state data shows no increase in total cases from The Villages. On Thursday, the state adjusted the number downward, from 77 to 70.
At the end of the week, more than 43,000 Floridians have coronavirus
Danielle Prieur, WMFE
Florida’s coronavirus case tally has climbed to 43,210 people. Statewide, 7,749 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 1,875 people have died.
Orange County has the most coronavirus cases in Central Florida, with 1,507 cases and 282 hospitalizations. Thirty-six people have died from COVID-19 in Orange County.
Osceola County has 554 cases, 16 deaths and 141 hospitalizations.
In Sumter County, home of the Villages retirement community, the death toll stands at 16. Sumter County has 243 cases and 42 hospitalizations.
Hover over the map for case numbers in other counties.
Are nursing homes being held accountable during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
Lori Denallo Roberts’ mother lives in a Tallahassee assisted living facility. A state rule barring visitors from entering means Roberts has had to find new ways communicate with her mother—like FaceTime. But she says that’s been difficult.
“When we had to go to FaceTime there was really no communication. We could sit and watch her but she would just look at the people around her. She didn’t understand it,” Roberts said.
Recently, the facility has allowed visitors to stand outside a resident’s window and look in. So Roberts and her father did that.
“And she saw my father for the first time and just kept eyes on him and wouldn’t let them off. And then she reached out and touched the window and he touched the window and it was—it was really really beautiful of course my eyes filled with tears,” Roberts said.
Roberts says these window visits are making all the difference in the world, and she’s excited for the next time she can see her mother this way. But not all families have that option. Brian Lee with Families For Better Care says he’s heard concerns from many people with relatives in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“Families are having a difficult time getting a hold of someone at the facility to ask about their loved one and when they do they’re not hearing back from either the caregivers, the nurses, or whoever the supervisors they need to talk to about their loved ones’ care, they’re not getting that communication back and it’s very difficult for people to get answers,” Lee said.
Scott Gwartney is an attorney who handles nursing home litigation. He says people have called him about facility staff not wearing masks.
“I talked to somebody today—just today who I think by FaceTime or some similar app had contacted their loved one in a long-term care facility and they were alarmed to see that there was no face mask on the employee who was there with their loved one,” Gwartney said.
Lee says another concern is the people who typically hold these facilities accountable are also banned from entering—again in an effort to protect residents from the spread of the coronavirus.
“The framework for all of that accountability has just pretty much disappeared since the COVID outbreak,” Lee said.
The people who used to check up on residents like voluntary ombudsman can’t go inside nursing homes. Instead, they are doing their checks over the phone. The Agency for Healthcare and Administration otherwise known as AHCA, regulates Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Agency Secretary Mary Mayhew says oversight for these places is still happening.
“When we are in a facility we are not looking just at infection control we are looking broadly at quality of care. Concerns around pressure ulcers, concerns around falls, appropriate nutrition, all of that is front and center in our review of these facilities,” Mayhew said.
AHCA is now requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to allow Florida Department of Health officials and representatives inside to work on preventing and controlling COVID-19. That includes testing of all staff for the virus. As of May 12th, the agency reported conducting more than 1,400 onsite visits since the pandemic began. Mayhew says these visits will continue.
“So we’ve had a lot of exposure and through that we evaluate any concerns around adherence to infection control standards,” Mayhew said.
Donna Fudge is an attorney that has represented long-term care providers. She says now residents are getting full on nursing assessments every shift because of COVID-19.
“So the reality is that because our care teams are so devoted and dedicated to doing their best to try and spot the presence of COVID impacting the residents they’re giving extra eyes and extra attention and extra assessment and extra compassion quite frankly,” Fudge said.
For Roberts, who is looking forward to her next window visit with her mother, she says what’s keeping her family going is knowing the staff members are doing their best.
“Everybody loves her. The staff, I mean the kitchen people know my mom. The people that clean up know my mom. Everybody knows my mom. They know her nuances. They know everything about her. Every time I walk by anyone will say oh I did this with your mom today or whatever but she is surrounded by love and care and it’s made a difference in her completely,” Roberts said.
Governor Ron DeSantis says he is hoping to find a safe way for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to open their doors to visitors. But he hasn’t yet set a date for when that will be.
Democrats say unemployment system still too slow
Tom Urban, WLRN
Florida had nearly 222,000 first-time unemployment claims filed last week, according to numbers posted Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
This comes after 175,000 claims during the prior week, and another 500,000 plus during the week ending April 18th.
Several Democratic state senators gathered at the state capitol Friday to discuss continued problems in Florida’s unemployment-compensation system.
New numbers from the Department of Economic Opportunity show more than 1.5 million unique unemployment claims.
Of those, 78 percent have been processed, and more than 740,000 people have been paid state benefits of up to 275 dollars a week.
Another 331,000 claims were being checked for fraud.
Even as the claims are being processed, State Senator Gary Farmer says many jobless Floridians have still received no help.
He feels all claims should be paid, and the state can figure out the fraud issues later.
“Stop the runaround. Stop dealing with this broken system and just pay all the claims now, period. Floridians cannot suffer any longer,” Farmer said.
Florida had a 4.3 percent unemployment rate for March that represented 444,000 people out of work.
April’s estimate will be released next Friday, May 22nd.
The national unemployment mark hit 14.7 percent in April.
Travel industry transitioning amid coronavirus pandemic
Gina Jordan, WFSU
We’re entering what is normally summer vacation season. But flights are far from full, and highways aren’t so crowded as the coronavirus pandemic wears on.
Theme parks are popular getaways in the summer. They’re not open yet, but when guests are allowed back in, Universal Orlando Resort CEO John Sprouls says attendance will be capped.
“We know the paramount issue for our guests will be feeling safe in our parks. If they don’t feel safe, they won’t attend,” says Sprouls, who was part of the governor’s Reopen Florida Task Force.
He says planners are still trying to figure out how to avoid letting sick guests into the parks – and how to maintain social distancing. “We also anticipate a slow ramp up with respect to our hotels, our restaurants, the food venues, and retail shops,” Sprouls says. “We’re working with all of those different industries.”
The unknowns are keeping AAA Auto Club from delivering its annual Memorial Day travel forecast.
“It’ll be the first time in 20 years,” says AAA Spokesman Mark Jenkins. “The real reason for that is just the economic fundamentals. The data that we typically collect to formulate these forecasts have been significantly undermined by COVID-19.”
He says consumer confidence is slowly improving, but the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still urging Americans to avoid nonessential travel. So Jenkins says family vacations are likely to be by car for a while, and close to home.
“We’re seeing on AAA.com that online bookings are rising, though modestly, since about mid-April. What that’s telling us is that travelers’ confidence is growing, and when it’s safe to travel, we believe vacationers will have more of a preference for US destinations, mostly local and regional locations,” Jenkins says. “People will be driving to their destination maybe for a day trip, and then as things continue, people get a little more confidence, the first trip goes smoothly, then they venture a little bit further out.”
It’s too soon to say how many people will take trips in the coming months, although Jenkins says tourism is making a shift. “The travel industry is in a state of transition. Industry leaders are looking at ways that they can evolve with the times and make travelers feel comfortable as they’re flying or as they’re staying in their hotel,” Jenkins says.
AAA expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen.
Publix to extend hours
Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN
One of Florida’s largest supermarkets is changing its hours as South Florida begins to reopen.
Publix announced that it will extend hours — 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. — starting this Saturday.
The chain said it’s also ending reserved shopping time for seniors and first responders.
Other grocery stores like Whole Foods are continuing to offer reserved shopping for people over 60. Check with each store for their hours.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club to partially reopen this weekend
The Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club will partially reopen to members as South Florida slowly reopens from the coronavirus lockdown.
An email sent Thursday to members says the Palm Beach resort’s Beach Club restaurant, its pool and its whirlpool will reopen Saturday after being closed two months.
The main building that includes hotel rooms, the main dining area and the president’s private residence will remain closed. Members will have to practice social distancing and bring their own towels.
The club traditionally closes in late May until November as its members flee Florida’s summer heat and humidity, but the email says it will now stay open through June.
FDA cautions about accuracy of widely used Abbott Coronavirus test
Joe Neel, NPR
The Food and Drug Administration is cautioning the public about the reliability of a widely used rapid test for the coronavirus. The test, made by Abbott Laboratories, has been linked with inaccurate results which could falsely reassure patients that they are not infected with the virus.
The Trump Administration has promoted the test as a key factor in controlling the epidemic in the U.S. and is used for the daily testing that is going on at the White House.
As first reported on NPR, as many as 15 to 20 out of every 100 tests may produce falsely negative results. A subsequent study released this week indicated that the test could be missing as many as 48% of infections.
The FDA issued the alert on the Abbott test “in the spirit of transparency,” and said in a press release, it’s investigating whether the false-negative results could be connected to the type of swab used during the rapid test, or the material the samples are being stored in when they’re transported.
It also cautions that “any negative test results that are not consistent with a patient’s clinical signs and symptoms or necessary for patient management should be confirmed with another test.”
“We are still evaluating the information about inaccurate results and are in direct communications with Abbott about this important issue,” said Tim Stenzel, director of the FDA’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health. “We will continue to study the data available and are working with the company to create additional mechanisms for studying the test.”
The Abbott rapid test can still be used to identify positive COVID-19 cases, according to Stenzel, though negative results may need to go through a secondary process to be confirmed.
The FDA has received 15 “adverse event reports” about the test indicating patients are receiving inaccurate results, according to the press release.
The FDA will continue to monitor data on the test and work with Abbott, which has agreed to conduct post-market studies on their rapid test. The studies will include at minimum 150 people who have previously tested positive for coronavirus, and take place in clinical settings, the FDA release said.
Abbot’s share price dropped more than 3% during after-hours trading on Thursday.
The company told NPR in late April that any problems with the test could stem from samples being stored in a special solution known as viral transport media before being tested, instead of being inserted directly into the company’s testing machine. As a result, the company recently instructed users to avoid using the solution and to only test samples put directly into the machine.
In addition, Abbot has continued to defend the accuracy of the test, and pointed to other studies that have found it is as accurate as any other tests being used.
Precise, timely testing has been a major challenge in the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond issues with accuracy of rapid tests, there have also been issues certifying antibody tests – those that can detect if someone has been infected with COVID-19 in the past.
Challenger Learning Center provides virtual visit to Hamilton County students
Tom Flanigan, WFSU
With class trips a thing of the past for now, Tallahassee’s Challenger Learning Center is making a virtual visit to students in Hamilton County. Hundreds of pre-packaged lessons will be delivered to the students’ homes.
The Center’s Samantha Reaves says many Hamilton County students lack technology, so the Challenger staff went back to the basics.
“Stapled paper packets in zip lock bags and little kits for everything they need. But going back to ‘old school’ pen and paper for the majority of these lessons trying to keep it accessible to all the students so they’ll have the opportunity to participate,” Reaves said.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of those packets.
“We are serving grades K-8 and across the spring and summer semesters for different numbers of students,” Reaves said.
And, just like a real visit to the Challenger Learning Center, each lesson includes free popcorn.
Morgan and Morgan will sue nursing homes where residents died from COVID-19
Abe Aboraya, WMFE
Lawyers representing the families of people who died of COVID-19 have put nursing homes on notice that they plan to sue.
That includes the Opis Coquina nursing home in Volusia County, where 16 residents have died from the new coronavirus.
Lobbyists representing nursing homes and assisted living facilities have asked Florida’s governor for immunity from lawsuits, which he has so far declined to do.
Matt Morgan is an attorney with Morgan and Morgan.
“In every jurisdiction where you live, right now, there’s a big powerful lobby, that is going to your politicians and trying to slide things into legislation in total and complete immunity for anything that they do wrong to kill your mother or father. And that’s wrong,” Morgan said.
An industry group representing nursing homes declined an interview. So far, 776 long-term care residents or staff members have died of COVID-19, according to Florida Department of Health data — more than 40 percent of the overall death toll.
Orange County religious leaders discuss restarting services
Joe Byrnes, WMFE
Religious leaders got some guidance about restarting services from Orange County and their peers during a virtual town hall on Thursday.
They had questions about capacity, help with masks, legal liability and the timing of Florida’s phase two recovery plan.
Pastor Gabriel Salguero, who leads the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, offered to share the guidance they have prepared. It starts with the CDC rules and extends to practical considerations at places of worship.
“The most important thing is communicate, communicate, communicate. And do it with great clarity and repetition,” Salguero said.
The county also offered guidelines, along with help for those seeking masks or sanitizer.
Broward Mayor says beaches could reopen May 26
Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN
Broward County Mayor Dale Holness says beaches could reopen by May 26th — after Memorial Day.
During a news conference Thursday, he said the county plans to coordinate with Miami-Dade.
“We agree that it’s best that we do it together as a region. If we open one section of the beach, or one city, and the others are not open, then we’ll have the crowding and get back to where we were, not where we want to be,” Holness said.
Beaches will remain closed in Broward and Miami-Dade even as they reopen other things on Monday.
Palm Beach County commissioners are discussing that issue during a meeting Friday. The county is planning to reopen beaches starting this Monday.
Restaurant owners take firmer safety precautions than prescribed by governor
Blaise Gainey, WFSU
When the governor loosened restrictions on restaurants, Uptown Café co-owner Nic Tedio decided he’d open the doors for people to dine-in.
“Today was the first day and I think we had 3 or 4 tables. And the way that we’re doing it is it’s not even necessarily dining it’s still takeout you get the food in a to-go box and there’s a couple of tables you can feel free to dine at while you’re here. But we’re not doing refilled drinks. There’s not a server coming to your table to refill drinks and all that kind of stuff,” Tedio said.
Tedio says that helps keep employees and customers safe while modestly increasing his business.
“At this point and time, I’m not comfortable giving a customer a plate, or silverware, or a cup that someone else has dranken out of at this time. We’re doing our best to sanitize that stuff at all times and the requirements from the government are already very strenuous and we meet all those. You know we do; we’re doing everything that we can. But it’s still a big liability, even if it’s not a legal liability just the liability of knowing that somebody could get sick from us,” Tedio said.
Tedio says he’s worried of what would happen to an employee if for instance they do contract the virus.
“Publix ran into that a couple of weeks ago where they had a bag boy and a cashier that had it. And the questions is how do you move forward with that? What happens to those employees are they let go because they can’t come back and infect the rest of us with COVID. I don’t want to have to do that. If that’s what happens I don’t want to do that to my staff,” Tedio said.
Uptown Cafe’s Tedio is taking a different approach from Keith Baxter who owns Kool Beanz Café. He’s keeping his dining room closed.
“Twenty five percent occupancy is a losing business model for me. Secondly, in a meeting with all of my employees none of us felt like we were safe whether it’s still high risk that we could be infected. So we decided for the safety of our employees first and the safety of our customers second that we wouldn’t do that,” Baxter said.
Instead he says customers can just order takeout. As for now he says he’s working with a limited staff since not everyone has decided to return to work. But he says there’s no rush.
“Not at all we’ve got a family of people here. I’ve got 5 employees who’ve worked here over 20 years. I’ve got employees who’ve been here 16 years. We look out for each other here,” Baxter said.
When asked when he would open the dining room he said he’ll:
“Follow the science, Listen to the doctors.”
Trump names leaders of ‘Operation Warp Speed’ vaccine effort
Tamara Keith, NPR
President Trump has chosen a former pharmaceutical executive and a four star general to run Operation Warp Speed, an effort to speed up development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and get it to as many Americans as quickly as possible.
“I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously because we’ve geared up the military,” President Trump said as he prepared to board Marine One on Thursday afternoon. Experts have said the best case scenario for vaccine development would be 12 to 18 months.
It’s not clear exactly what he means by gearing up the military, but Trump could be referencing the addition of General Gustave Perna to the Operation Warp Speed team. Perna is commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command and, according to two administration officials, will be the chief operating officer of the program.
Former GlaxoSmithKline executive Moncef Slaoui has been named chief adviser to the effort. He held numerous roles at the company over a long career, including chairman of global vaccines. Since his retirement, Slaoui has served on pharmaceutical and health tech company boards, including Moderna, the company whose vaccine Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health has described as promising. Among numerous candidates, that vaccine is the furthest along in development, entering a phase 2 trial.
With Operation Warp Speed, President Trump is trying to push the development of a vaccine sooner than the 12-18 month time frame. “I hope we’re going to have a vaccine, and we’re going to fast-track it like you’ve never seen before, if we come up with a vaccine,” Trump said at the end of April when the idea of Operation Warp Speed was first reported.
CDC issues decision tools to guide reopening of schools, businesses, transit
Hannah Hagemann, NPR
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of documents on Thursday designed to provide guidance on how childcare centers, schools, restaurants and bars, and other establishments could begin the process of reopening in the face of coronavirus. The direction comes after calls from lawmakers and state officials mounted for the CDC to weigh in on how regions should reopen their economies.
The decision tools the agency released recommend that all workplaces hold off on reopening unless they are ready to protect employees at higher risk for severe illness, including those 65 and older and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions.
If an organization can protect workers and goes forward with reopening, the CDC recommends intensifying cleaning and sanitation and establishing health and safety actions “as feasible,” such as hand washing, wearing a cloth face covering and social distancing. The documents also advise employers to encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick.
Schools, childcare centers and camps should not reopen, the guidelines stipulate, unless they are able to implement coronavirus screening protocols, evaluating employees and children daily for symptoms and potential past exposures to COVID-19.
Restaurants, bars, mass transit and other workplaces are encouraged to implement similar monitoring systems for their employees. In particular, mass transit should not increase services unless they can put in place measures to protect employees at high risk, according to the CDC.
The flowchart-like documents released by the CDC also ask businesses, schools and workplaces to first and foremost consider whether adherence with the agency’s reopening guidelines is consistent with state and local stay-at-home orders.
“It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community,” the documents say.
Compliance with the CDC direction will depend on whether states adopt the decision tools into their own local policies — and whether the Trump administration supports and promotes the agency’s guidelines.
Last week, the Associated Press obtained an earlier draft of the CDC decision tool documents, which at that time also contained guidance for faith communities. The AP also reported that earlier version would have stipulated that summer camps only reopen if they limited attendance to people who lived in that community.
Those earlier documents did not issue guidance for schools, which the agency specifically addressed in Thursday’s version of the decision tools.
DeSantis announces experimental drug ‘Remdesivir’ will go to Florida hospitals
Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
Florida is expected to get enough doses of an experimental coronavirus medicine to treat anywhere from 100 to 200 patients.
Earlier this month, the Federal Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the drug Remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients.
Even though the FDA is allowing doctors to use Remdesivir to treat severe coronavirus cases, the agency has not officially given the drug its stamp of approval.
That’s because a lot more testing needs to be done to make sure it’s safe. Early results from a clinical trial by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases show patients who got Remdesivir had a 31 percent faster recovery than those who got a placebo.
But more detailed information has not yet been released. Now that same organization is doing another trial, this time pairing remdesivir with an anti-inflammatory drug.
Governor Ron DeSantis says in Florida priority for the drug will go to patients on ventilators.
Hands Across the Sand will be online-only this Saturday
Sean Kinane, WMNF
For a decade, opponents of offshore drilling have joined hands at beaches throughout Florida and worldwide on the third Saturday in May.
But Dede Shelton, the executive director of Hands Across the Sand, says this Saturday it will be online instead.
“Joining of hands was not what we wanted to promote this year due to COVID, so we decided to do a Facebook Live event. It’s going to be a video compilation of our last 10 years of events. The drone pictures, the videos that people have taken themselves of their lines,” Shelton said.
The event will be on the Hands Across the Sand Facebook page at noon on Saturday.
Some caregivers feel left out of the coronavirus conversation
Daylina Miller, WUSF
Coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes are prompting questions about whether more people will care for loved ones at home.
The number of family caregivers in the U.S. already increased by 9.5 million from 2015 to 2020.
The first federal coronavirus bill included money for the National Family Caregiver Support Program. But the Families First Coronavirus Response Act didn’t include more paid leave for caregivers unless their loved one has COVID-19.
Grace Whiting is president of the National Alliance for Caregiving. She says the pandemic is making things worse for caregivers:
“I think the pandemic presents an opportunity for us to really make the case that caregivers are the backbone of our long term care system, our health care system and our social care system. And they need help,” Whiting said.
The report shows family caregivers are in worse health compared to five years ago – and struggling more financially.
Carnival to lay off hundreds in Florida, other states
MIAMI (AP) — The world’s largest cruise company Carnival Corp. says it will be laying off hundreds of employees in Florida, California and Washington due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company’s CEO Arnold Donald said the combination of layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts were “necessary” as the pause on cruise travel enters its third month.
The company said in an email that the majority of affected employees in the U.S. will be in Florida, California and Washington state.
Carnival Corp. did not reveal the number of job eliminations in the other states or countries around the world.
Click here to read more of WMFE’s reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.
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