Latest coronavirus news for April 13, 2020: Live updates

Here’s what we know today about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

SHARE Latest coronavirus news for April 13, 2020: Live updates

Illinois health officials on Monday said another 74 people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s death toll to 794. There are also 1,173 new confirmed cases, bringing the total of cases in the state to 22,025.

Here’s what happened in the fight against the coronavirus in Chicago and around the state.


News

Illinois sees first Election Day poll worker death from COVID-19 – South Side city worker died two weeks after primary

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Revall Burke, 60, a city employee, died April 1 of COVID-19, 15 days after working as an election judge at a 17th Ward polling place.

From Facebook

A 17thWard election judge died from COVID-19 just 15 days after he worked a South Side polling place on Election Day.

Revall Burke, 60, a city parking enforcement aide who lived in the 7600 block of South Morgan, died April 1.

On March 17, Burke was assigned to the polling place at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 1460 W. 78thSt.

Burke was the first city employee known to have died from the coronavirus, but his name was not made public when Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the death on April 1.

His role as a polling place worker in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood was first reported Monday by Patch.com.

The news reignited the debate about whether Illinois should have proceeded with the primary election after the coronavirus outbreak had been identified as a global pandemic.

At his daily news briefing, Gov. J.B. Pritzker again defended the decision to go forward with the election, saying he had no legal authority under the Illinois Constitution to do otherwise.

“So, I couldn’t shut it down,” Pritzker said, noting he had instead encouraged voters to vote early and vote by mail.

Read the full story from Tina Sfondeles and Mark Brown here.

9:00 p.m. Nonprofit aims to revive restaurant jobs while providing meals to health care workers on the front-lines

Off Their Plate, a nonprofit organization with the aim of reviving restaurant jobs and providing meals to health care workers on the front-lines of the coronavirus pandemic, launched this week in Chicago.

The group partners with local chefs and business owners who pledge to donate meals to a local hospital or health care facility. The organization raises money from donations and grants for the restaurants to be able to pay their staff.

The organization made its first delivery of 175 meals to Lawndale Christian Health Center Monday and will be expanding to deliver more meals to hospitals in Chicago, Off Their Plate spokesman Sean Savett said in a statement.

Read the full story by Emmanuel Camarillo here.

8:35 p.m. Number of confirmed coronavirus cases tops 2M worldwide

New York’s coronavirus death toll topped 10,000 even as the lack of fresh hot spots in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world yielded a ray of optimism and fueled discussions Monday about how some places might begin to reopen.

The brunt of the disease has been felt most heavily in New York, Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, but grim projections of a virus that would spread with equal ferocity to other corners of America and the world have not yet materialized after more than a month of measures meant to blunt its impact. Even so, the worldwide death toll surpassed 119,000 on Monday.

The death toll in populous states such as Florida and Pennsylvania was on par with some individual counties outside New York City. Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and a hub for immigrant communities and business travelers in the energy industry, has been largely spared compared to other parts of the U.S. As Colorado deaths surpassed 300 on Monday, Gov. Jared Polis compared that figure to New York’s thousands and called it “a tragic indication of our success in Colorado.”

Officials around the world worried that halting quarantine and social-distancing measures could easily undo the hard-earned progress that those steps have achieved in slowing the spread.

Still, there were signs countries were looking in that direction.

Read the full report here.

8:06 p.m. COVID-19 immunity tests in the works — but none accurate enough to roll out yet, official says

Chicago’s top public health official warned Monday that antibody testing used to screen for immunity to the novel coronavirus remains unreliable and that an accurate test may not be approved for weeks.

During a question-and-answer session posted on social media, Dr. Allison Arwady explained that testing for immunity to get an indication of infection at a “population level” is still flawed. That’s because the blood tests can currently return results that are both falsely negative and falsely positive, said Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

While the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency approval to a test developed by North Carolina-based Cellex, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn warned Sunday that antibody tests being reviewed by the agency “may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be.

“No test is 100% perfect, but what we don’t want are wildly inaccurate tests. That’s going to be much worse, having wildly inaccurate tests, than having no tests,” Hahn said on “Meet the Press.”

Read the full report by Tom Schuba here.

7:45 p.m. McHenry County judge orders names of coronavirus patients to be shared with law enforcement to protect officers

A McHenry County judge on Friday ordered county health officials to disclose the names of coronavirus patients to law enforcement.

Under the judge’s order, the county Health Department must share the names with 911 dispatchers within 24-hours of being notified. Any names received must remain confidential and are to be purged seven days after the Health Department deems a person no longer contagious.

“It’s critical that law enforcement receive this information in a timely fashion so we can keep our officers healthy in order to continue providing the best possible service to our communities,” McHenry County Sheriff Prim said in a statement issued Monday.

Read the full report from Mitch Dudek here.

7:00 p.m. Mourners salute from a distance at funeral of Chicago firefighter who died of COVID-19

Chicago Fire Department personnel salute during the procession to the cemetery from firefighter Mario Araujo’s funeral at Theis-Gorski Funeral Home on the Northwest Side, Monday morning, April 13, 2020.

Chicago Fire Department personnel salute during the procession to the cemetery from firefighter Mario Araujo’s funeral at Theis-Gorski Funeral Home on the Northwest Side, Monday morning, April 13, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Hundreds of Chicago Fire Department personnel and law enforcement officers stood more than 6 feet apart on North Pulaski Road and saluted Monday morning as the hearse carrying firefighter Mario Araujo traveled to a Northwest Side cemetery.

Araujo’s funeral, at Theis-Gorski Funeral Home in the Irving Park neighborhood, was attended by

only “a very limited number” of family members, according to the fire department. Hundreds of Araujo’s colleagues and supporters waited outside the funeral home and eventually joined in the procession to Montrose Cemetery, where a brief ceremony, featuring bagpipes and a 21-gun salute, took place in front of the crematorium. Araujo’s mother was presented with the Chicago flag that draped her son’s casket.

Read photojournalist Ashlee Rezin Garcia’s full report and see more of her photography from the funeral here.

6:35 p.m. Homeless to get testing, nurse visits, other protections to limit spread during pandemic

A stay-at-home order doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have a home.

With that in mind, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday unveiled a sweeping plan to test, protect and treat homeless Chicagoans most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus.

Last month, City Hall forged an agreement with the YMCA of Metro Chicago and the Salvation Army to open 699 temporary shelter beds at shuttered YMCA facilities so homeless Chicagoans can maintain at least six feet of social distance.

Some of those beds were earmarked for women, children and inmates newly released from Cook County Jail. The Department of Family and Support Services also made regular visits to Chicago’s largest homeless encampments and installed a dozen portable washrooms and hand-washing stations at encampments with more than 10 people.

The plan announced Monday goes far beyond those initial steps.

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

6:01 p.m. NFL, union prepare for virtual offseason workouts

The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed on the format for a “virtual offseason” during coronavirus stay-home orders Monday, giving teams ways to teach players and monitor their workouts until they’re allowed to return to their facilities.

That will be a long time from now — the league specified that no team is allowed to return to its facility for on-field work until all 32 buildings are cleared to reopen by their local government agencies.

Virtual offseason sessions can start as early as April 20. Teams can use Skype, Zoom or other platforms to teach in a classroom setting.

Virtual offseason sessions are voluntary, though if facilities stay closed, teams will be able to hold a mandatory veteran minicamp online in June.

— Patrick Finley

5:33 p.m. Heart woes spur partial stop of malaria drug study for virus

Scientists in Brazil have stopped part of a study of a malaria drug touted as a possible coronavirus treatment after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.

Chloroquine and a newer, similar drug called hydroxychloroquine, have been pushed by President Donald Trump after some very small, early tests suggested the drugs might curb the virus from entering cells. But the drugs have long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death.

The Brazilian study, in the Amazonian city of Manaus, had planned to enroll 440 severely ill COVID-19 patients to test two doses of chloroquine, but researchers reported results after only 81 had been treated.

One-fourth of those assigned to get 600 milligrams twice a day for 10 days developed heart rhythm problems, and trends suggested more deaths were occurring in that group, so scientists stopped that part of the study.

Read the full report here.

5:07 p.m. 74 more die in Illinois from coronavirus; Pritzker administration hopes cases are leveling

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a daily briefing in March 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois health officials on Monday said another 74 people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s death toll to 794.

There are also 1,173 new confirmed cases, bringing the total of cases in the state to 22,025. There have been more than 100,000 tests administered, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The virus has also spread to an additional county, with 87 of 102 counties reporting cases.

Private labs do not report their results on Sundays, which has led to a lower number of confirmed cases on Mondays, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

Pritzker on Sunday said he was “cautiously optimistic” the state could be “bending the curve” to keep hospitals within their patient capacity.

Reporter Tina Sfondeles has the full story.


4:42 p.m. Car insurance companies tout their refunds because of coronavirus, but they vary widely

Car insurance companies are touting their discounts because policyholders are driving less thanks to the coronavirus shutdown — but some discounts are better than others, consumer groups say.

State Farm, based in Bloomington, got an “A” ranking Monday by the Consumer Federation of America and Center for Economic Justice for announcing it will give refunds, on average of 25 percent coveringMarch 20 through May 31.

Allstate, based in Northbrook, got a “B” grade for offering a 15 percent refund for April and May premiums. Along with American Family, Allstate was cited for being the first to offer a refund to consumers.

See how other car insurance companies fared in reporter Stephanie Zimmerman’s latest story.

4:10 p.m. Virus exposes US inequality. Will it spur lasting remedies?

WASHINGTON — The sick who still go to work because they have no paid leave.

Families who face ruin from even a temporary layoff.

Front-line workers risking infection as they drive buses, bag takeout meals and mop hospital floors.

For years, financial inequality has widened in the United States and elsewhere as wealth and income have become increasingly concentrated among the most affluent while millions struggle to get by. Now, the coronavirus outbreak has laid bear the human cost of that inequality, making it more visible and potentially worse.

Congress, the Trump administration and the Federal Reserve have mounted the largest financial intervention in history — a full-scale drive that includes mandating sick leave for some, distributing $1,200 checks to individuals, allocating rescue aid to employers and expanding unemployment benefits to try to help America survive the crisis.

Yet those measures are only temporary. And for millions of newly unemployed, they may not be enough.

Read the full report here.

3:33 p.m. WATCH: Eerie video shows nearly empty Chicago Loop from 360-degree camera

Bustling downtown streets have largely been abandoned as life in Chicago has come to a grinding halt in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

To capture the eerie phenomenon, videographers Rob Gigliotti, owner of RRG Photography, and Mark Segal, who owns Skypan International, used a 360-degree camera to film various landmarks in the Loop on April 2. The sunny spring day less than two weeks into Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s ongoing stay-at-home order. They cruised at about 15 miles per hour down normally bustling streets, with the camera atop a 10-foot pole.

Soundtracked by a loping guitar solo, the resulting video offers a stunning view of a city at a standstill. While some buses and trains can be seen running in the roughly 4 1/2-minute video, only a smattering of pedestrians and vehicles are seen braving the desolate cityscape.

Reporter Tom Schuba has the full story. Check out the video here.

3:05 p.m. Trump’s disdain for ‘Obamacare’ could hamper virus response

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s unrelenting opposition to “Obamacare” could become an obstacle for millions of uninsured people in the coronavirus outbreak, as well as many who are losing coverage in the economic shutdown.

Experts say the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets provide a ready-made infrastructure for extending subsidized private coverage in every state, allowing more people access to medical treatment before they get so sick they have to go to the emergency room. In about three-fourths of the states, expanded Medicaid is also available to low-income people.

But the Trump administration has resisted reopening the ACA’s HealthCare.gov marketplace for uninsured people who missed the last sign-up period. And it doesn’t seem to be doing much to inform people who lost job-based coverage that they’re eligible for insurance now through the ACA.

State-run exchanges prominently promote the availability of coverage, but users of HealthCare.gov have to go through a series of clicks to get that information.

“There is definitely a greater prioritization of coronavirus on the state exchange websites,” said Katherine Hempstead of the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The state exchanges put a message about coronavirus along the top of their home page — ‘above the fold’ — while on HealthCare.gov it appears that it’s business as usual until you scroll down.”

Read the full report here.

2:37 p.m. UChicago seeking former COVID-19 patients for treatment study

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If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, the University of Chicago wants to hear from you.

Researchers at University of Chicago Medicine have launched a clinical trial to study if blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from the disease brought on by the novel coronavirus can be used to help those still suffering from the virus.

“Basically, it relies on the principle of passive immunity, where you want to take plasma from a person who has recovered from the disease — [who] likely has anti-virus antibodies — and then transfuse it into a person who’s currently sick with the disease in the hopes of making them recover,” said Dr. Maria Lucia Madariaga, the study’s principal investigator. “Right now, the preliminary data coming out from China indicate that it is a safe and effective therapy.”

The treatment, known as convalescent plasma therapy, has been used for more than a century and has previously been employed in fights against measles, influenza, MERS and SARS.

Eligible persons who are interested in donating plasma can contact University of Chicago Medicine at (773) 702-5526 or plasma@uchospitals.edu.

Read the full story from Sun-Times reporter Sam Charles.


1:59 p.m. NY death toll passes 10,000, but new hotspots slow to emerge

MADRID — New York’s coronavirus death toll topped 10,000 on Monday even as the absence of fresh hotspots in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world yielded a ray of optimism in global efforts against the disease, though a return to normal was unlikely anytime soon.

Officials around the world worried that halting the quarantine and social distancing behaviors could easily undo the hard-earned progress. Still, there were signs that countries were looking in that direction. Spain permitted some workers to return to their jobs, a hard-hit region of Italy loosened its lockdown restrictions and grim predictions of a virus that would move with equal ferocity from New York to other parts of America had not yet materialized.

New York’s state’s 671 new deaths on Sunday marked the first time in a week that the daily toll dipped below 700. Almost 2,000 people were newly hospitalized with the virus Sunday, though once discharges and deaths are accounted for, the number of people hospitalized has flattened to just under 19,000.

“This virus is very good at what it does. It is a killer,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday during a state Capitol news briefing.

Read more of this report here.

11:40 a.m. Trump says he’ll decide on easing guidelines, not governors

President Donald Trump asserted Monday that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines as he grows anxious to reopen the coronavirus-stricken country as soon as possible.

Governors and local leaders, who have instituted mandatory restrictions that have the force of law, have expressed concern that Trump’s plan to restore normalcy will cost lives and extend the duration of the outbreak.

President Trump and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker have been engaged in public debates over response to the virus for weeks. Read more about here.

Trump has pushed to reopen the economy, which has plummeted as businesses have shuttered, leaving millions of people out of work and struggling to obtain basic commodities.

Taking to Twitter on Monday, Trump said some are “saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect...it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”

Click here to read the full story.

10:31 a.m. ‘Great news on the testing front’ in Illinois as hard-hit NYC rations supplies

New York City is in danger of running out of swabs for COVID-19 tests and is urging medical providers to continue testing only patients who are gravely ill, the city health department said in a memo to health care providers.

“As the swab supply continues to decline, there is a real possibility hospitals will completely run out,” the April 11 health alert said. “At this time, providers are reminded to only test hospitalized patients in order to preserve resources that are needed to diagnose and appropriately manage patients with more severe illness.”

Meanwhile, in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker reported Sunday that 7,956 people had been tested for COVID-19 throughout the state since the previous afternoon. That marks the highest number of tests administered in a single day so far, and brings us closer to the goal of 10,000 tests per day that experts say would be needed to get an accurate understanding of the virus’ spread.

“That is great news on the testing front,” Pritzker said. “I’ve spoken before about a stabilizing or bending of the curve, and today is another piece of evidence that it might be happening.”

Read Jake Wittich’s full report from Pritzker’s Sunday briefing here.

8:50 a.m. Six ways the coronavirus pandemic will hit Chicago’s economy hard

1. Spending local gets harder

Even before the crisis, times weren’t good on the local commercial street. Start with outmoded space, lack of parking and a poor mix of stores, add in digital shopping and compound that with a hard recession and you’ve got a surfeit of “for rent” signs and landlords with little incentive to maintain things. Sam Toia, CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, worries that 25% of his members in Chicago will never re-open. Maybe cheap rents and cash on hand will bring out successors.

2. Don’t believe the construction cranes

In the office market, job cuts mean lower demand for space. Ross Moore, economist at the real estate firm Cresa, wrote, “Accounting for new construction, the U.S. office vacancy rate could therefore easily double in the next 12 to 24 months to nearly 20%.”

3. New respect for the suburbs

Chicago has ridden a wave of urbanization led by young people drawn to other young people. The West Loop can look like a post-graduate campus town. But something about a plague makes living cheek by jowl less attractive. Then those folks go to work in techie open-plan offices that cram people together and give them a coffee lounge to keep them happy. Some may decide that living with backyards like their parents did isn’t so bad.

Read the full story from the Sun-Times’ David Roeder.

7:17 a.m. Longtime 911 operator expressed concerns about COVID-19 precautions at work weeks before dying of virus, daughter says

A longtime 911 operator who died of complications from the coronavirus last month had told his family he was concerned he and his co-workers had not been provided with adequate personal protective equipment, according to his daughter.

Russell Modjeski was a hard-working man dedicated to his family and his co-workers, his daughter Hannah Modjeski told the Sun-Times in a phone interview Saturday.

Modjeski died March 29 of a COVID-19 infection, with diabetes and hypertension as contributing factors,“ according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

In the weeks before his death, Modjeski, 60, told relatives that hand sanitizer was being supplied at his office, but that workers were not being given masks, gloves or other protective equipment while working for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Read the full story from reporter Jermaine Nolan here.

6:34 a.m. Pritzker sounds alarm: Trump administration trying to limit gig worker jobless benefits

The Pritzker administration sounded the alarm Sunday over attempts by President Donald Trump’s Labor Department to narrow the ability of self-employed workers to qualify for new COVID-19 jobless benefits, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

A package of unprecedented, enhanced and extended unemployment benefits in the emergency $2.2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — known as the CARES Act — was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law March 27.

Allowing self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers — such as Uber and Lyft drivers — the ability to collect unemployment on a temporary basis is a key new program created in the CARES Act.

Illinoisans already receiving unemployment payments should have received another $600 last week, with the federal government providing the emergency extra cash under the CARES Act.

The extra benefits are intended to quickly send money to workers who lost their jobs or were furloughed or whose income sources dried up because of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and the meltdown of the economy.

Read the full column from Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet here.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

9:32 p.m. America’s security blanket is a doctor named Fauci, not a president named Trump

The day will come when President Donald Trump will announce that the physical separation rules put in place to slow the coronavirus should begin to be lifted, reopening swaths of the economy.

When that day comes, we hope to see Dr. Anthony Fauci standing behind the president, signaling with his presence that the decision is sufficiently based on science, not politics.

For tens of millions of Americans who wouldn’t trust Trump to referee a children’s soccer game, Fauci is the one member of the White House pandemic team who instills confidence. He has fought the good fight behind closed doors, championing science against those who worry more about Wall Street or the president’s reelection prospects. He has been honest in his public statements about what should be done, even at the risk of infuriating Trump.

Which he has.

On Sunday, in a typically terrible move, Trump retweeted a call for Fauci to be fired. The next day, at his Monday press briefing, he then shrugged it off. The retweet — his retweet — “doesn’t matter,” he said, because “that’s somebody’s opinion.”

Maybe Trump figured it out. Canning Fauci would be a political disaster.

Read the full Sun-Times’ editorial here.

4:10 p.m. Racism and coronavirus double the damage inflicted upon African Americans

Today we are all sheltering in place. To defeat a lethal enemy, we sacrifice freedoms, limit contact with others, surrender financial security, and restrict ourselves from things we would like to be doing, in service of greater good of saving lives.

In past weeks, I have often heard that we are living in unprecedented times. That is likely true, but deceivingly so. This date in history remind us that staying in less-than-ideal places has more than once been a strategy for saving lives.

Fifty-seven years ago, on the spring date of Good Friday, 50 courageous individuals chose to be commanded by the government to remain in place; they did so to combat a pernicious, nation-ravaging evil that had taken countless lives and seemingly knew no borders. Led by Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Albernathy, these peaceful protest marchers were incarcerated by Bull Connor. They intentionally remained in jail, eschewing bond, to combat the deathly evil of racism.

From that very Birmingham Jail, Dr. King would pen his rightly famous letter, first published 57 years ago this very day. He challenged us to pay attention to what his moment made clear, bringing to the surface the problems already present.

Read more of Rabbi Seth M. Limmer’s contributed opinion here.

12:33 p.m. A pandemic is no excuse for rolling back environmental protections

Special interests are setting the stage for another public health crisis once COVID-19 has passed. Let’s stop them while we can.

As the nation focuses on the coronavirus pandemic, polluters and their allies are quietly working overtime to ease the rules against fouling the environment. They want to allow cars to spew more contaminants. They want to give a new pass to factories that pollute our water and air.

Widespread and enduring health problems would be sure to follow. People would get sick and die, though nobody would call it a pandemic. It would just be a return to a day that our nation fought hard, standing up to corporate despoilers of the environment, to move beyond.

Many industries genuinely deserve help to get through the pandemic. But others have been exploiting it to take advantage of the Trump administration’s consistent willingness to weaken environmental protections. The administration itself is trying to take advantage as well.

Read the full Sun-Times editorial here.

6:01 a.m. Airlines safe, but Trump would let post office die

You can’t vote by mail if there’s no mail.

One of the many disasters that will ensue if the government actually lets the United States Postal Service go belly up, which it might do as early as September.

A disaster to democracy, small “d” — the mail knits this country together in a fundamental way, like the interstate highway system — and I suppose to large “d” Democrats, too. That’s because their frequent majority — which is supposed to be the deciding factor in elections, remember — is constantly being undercut by Republican voter suppression.

The GOP casts this anti-democratic (and yes, anti-Democratic) action as a campaign to suppress voter fraud, which is rich, like the guy breaking into your house and stealing your TV declaring it part of an anti-burglary campaign.

At least we haven’t gone back to literacy tests and poll taxes. Yet.

The USPS going bust would also be a disaster to already cratering employment. Unemployment shot up due to the COVID-19 pandemic: a record-shattering 16 million unemployment claims in three weeks. If the USPS goes, another 600,000 jobs — good jobs with benefits — go with it.

The $2 trillion bailout package approved by both houses of Congress would have been the perfect time to help out letter carriers, since the volume of mail is down some 50 percent due to COVID-19.

The package manages to rescue the airline industry; you’d think the mail would be a no-brainer. But even no-brainers are hard when you haven’t got a brain. Or, rather, when the rude ganglional clump that controls your actions only lights up when the topic is you.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full column here.

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