Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

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Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus
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Source: Santa Barbara County Public Health Department

In the face of a significant increase in the numbers of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in mainland China and other countries, as well as the western U.S., local residents are understandably worried and fearful. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD), out of an abundance of caution, is seeking to solidify the county’s readiness should the COVID-19 virus be found here or in a nearby county.

The PHD is urging agencies, businesses, organizations, and health care providers throughout the county to develop and/or update a plan for social distancing within 24-48 hours.
County Health Officer, Dr. Henning Ansorg states, “The discovery of community transmission elsewhere in the state makes me feel that COVID-19 could arrive in our county at any time and we want to be prepared.” Community transmission means person-to-person spread.

“Our first level of protection comes from the quarantine and isolation of certain individuals,” said Dr. Ansorg. He further stressed that these plans will not be put into effect immediately. “Once cases of COVID-19 are found in the community, it will be time to implement social distancing plans.”

Social distancing means lessening contact between individuals throughout the county. Businesses, for instance, would review their staffing and identify workers who could work from home, resulting in fewer people and less contact between people at the workplace. Members of the public should speak with their employer about alternative work plans, such as telecommuting.

A population that is at particular risk from the COVID-19 is the elderly. Extended care facilities are being asked to write or update their plans for protecting their residents from interaction with those from outside their place of residence. While children seem to be less impacted by COVID-19 than other groups, schools have made significant advances in their planning for possible temporary closure. Some schools were closed for weeks during the H1N1 pandemic 10 years ago. It is important that schools and childcare facilities have a plan in place and are communicating with parents.

Primary care medical sites are being asked to implement plans to communicate with patients via Skype, FaceTime and over the phone. Many patient visits can be handled distantly thus avoiding crowding of clinics and the resulting increased risk of close contact that might further spread COVID-19. There is little evidence that pregnant women are at particularly increased risk from this virus, but special care should still be taken to decrease their social contacts.

Gatherings such as religious services might consider live streaming so that congregants can view the service from home, or they may consider modifying their service so that there can be at least two spaces between each congregant.

“The cancelation of large, non-essential gatherings is a possibility down the line,” said Dr. Ansorg. “Implementation of social distancing plans should be handled with creativity, flexibility and sensitivity.”
Above all, people who are starting to feel ill or who are ill, should stay away from others and not go into crowded settings.

People should continue to practice the same habits to prevent themselves from getting the flu. They should wash their hands frequently, elbow or fist bump one another instead of shaking hands or hugging, sneeze or cough into the crook of their elbow and maintain a six-foot or greater distance between themselves and anyone who looks ill. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Get a flu immunization to prevent influenza if they have not done so this season. Wearing a surgical face mask is necessary for those who are ill and going out in public, such as going to the doctor’s office. Health care workers interacting with patients should wear an N95 mask.

County PHD is working closely with its healthcare partners to assure screening, testing and care for potential COVID-19 patients. The PHD is providing ongoing guidance and alerts to healthcare partners in close coordination with the state Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Healthcare partners, including EMS providers, are participating in weekly teleconferences with the PHD to assure that procedures are in place at each facility to safely screen patients and protect healthcare workers and the community.

The PHD has been working diligently to prepare for the possibility of a COVID-19 case in the county. The team is in daily contact with state and federal officials and agencies and is closely monitoring neighboring counties for possible COVID-19 cases. The PHD Department Operations Center (D.O.C.) has been activated as of March 6. The PHD reminds the community of the steps to take to protect their health and the health of those around them:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough


For more information about COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019), please visit the SBCPHD website or call the PHD information line at 805-681-4373, and for the most up to date information regarding the novel coronavirus on the national level, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

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a-1583632052 Mar 07, 2020 05:47 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

SFGate: How to tell the difference between a cold, the flu or corona virus:....."It’s really hard because in all those things the spectrum of disease is broad," said Dr. Lee Atkinson-McEvoy, a pediatric doctor at UC San Francisco. "Even in coronavirus, they’re seeing people who have milder disease, so just a cough and runny nose, but no fever. Some people who test positive are asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms at all."

Coronaviruses are among a group of viruses that cause the “common cold,” and there are seven known ones that can infect humans. Four of these (229E, HKU1, OC43 and NL63) are seasonal and typically cause mild respiratory infection – fever, cough, nasal congestion, and headache, according to Dr. Charles Chiu, a professor of laboratory medicine and infectious disease at UC San Francisco.
"The remaining three coronaviruses (MERS, SARS, COVID-19) are the result of recent zoonotic (animal-to-human) transmission events and although they are also associated with mild respiratory symptoms, infection can progress to cause severe, life-threatening pneumonia," Dr. Chiu shared in an email..."

jqb Mar 08, 2020 10:14 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

"Coronaviruses are among a group of viruses that cause the “common cold,” and there are seven known ones that can infect humans." -- This is very misleading (from which I can infer who posted it). There are several viruses that cause the common cold, the most prevalent of which is the rhinovirus, which causes 50% of colds. Among the other viruses that cause the common cold are 4 strains of coronavirus. There are 7 strains of coronavirus known to attack humans, 4 of which are the 4 that cause the common cold. The other 3 are MUCH MORE LETHAL, one causing SARS (CFR = 9.6%), one causing MERS (CFR = 34.4%), and one causing COVID-19 (CFR unclear, apparently on the order of 2-3%). Conflating the 4 much milder strains of coronavirus with the 3 that can cause severe disease is disinformation.

SBgal74 Mar 08, 2020 09:28 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

This article mentions preparedness if the virus is found in “our county or in a nearby county” Ahhh, just yesterday it was announced that it has been found in Ventura County. Last time I checked that is nearby. It’s likely that we may already have people who are infected here as well. We all need to remain vigilant and practice these safety measures that are mentioned. The city needs to be much more aggressive about putting out public service announcements to residents about what symptoms may look like and what to do if you get sick. For God’s sake PLEASE CANCEL Santa Barbara as a cruise ship destination! Allowing those floating Petri dishes to stop here is just inviting the expedited spread of this virus.

a-1583686076 Mar 08, 2020 09:47 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

It won't matter one bit if 500 cruise ships stop by the Port of Santa Barbara. The people on those ships are less likely to become infected that say, oh, I dunno... sitting on any bench on State St. or getting a double-cupped triple venti half-caf breve (no-foam) two sachet Splenda stirred skinny two-pump peppermint schmoca-loca at Starbucks.

pstarSR Mar 08, 2020 10:06 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

you havent been watching whats been going on have you? the Norovirus that raged through our town a few years ago. ( horrible stomach flu ) Came from one of those ships, its not hard to say that this could also bring something unwanted. I for one think prudence is better than stubbornness. Stop the cruise ships till they get that sorted out.

therealbebe Mar 08, 2020 04:59 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

@10:24am yes, it DID happen. As the mother of a young child at the time, I and others were acutely aware of this specific event. You just weren't paying attention.

Byzantium Mar 08, 2020 08:28 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Samarkand and other close living groups had noro problems that was in the papers; but no connection to any cruise ships coming into Santa Barbara at the same time. Perhaps you were trying to assign guilt by association instead of reporting the facts.

a-1583688163 Mar 08, 2020 10:22 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

There is a city council meeting on the Coronavirus on Tuesday and the city's so-called preparedness. Given that the mayor still wants cruise ships to stop by Santa Barbara and all she can talk about is downtown businesses it's very unlikely that she's going to want to cancel any large events. - More likely she will encourage people to go out and eat at a restaurant. - Don't we have Earth day coming up? Doesn't that bring 100,000 people downtown? People from all over the country descend upon Santa Barbara for this event and others. We need to be discussing canceling events and large gatherings now and what exactly would trigger the cancellation. We also need to discuss what happens when our workforce is locked in their house for 2 weeks and they can't afford their rent, or food or medical bills. We have a huge population that is living on the edge and we need to talk about what happens when whatever nest egg they have is gone. Are these people going to end up homeless? Is the city going to pass any ordinances to ensure that they're not kicked out of their house? We really need to have a deep discussion on this topic. But at the same time how many people are going to show up to a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday? That will be a huge public gathering and should we even be having public gatherings at this point? If one person is sick how many people can be infected in the council chambers? Is the city council even going to provide everyone with masks when they enter City Hall? If you're concerned about this send an email to the city council. Their Joi t email address is: SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.Gov

therealbebe Mar 08, 2020 04:57 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

YES great points raised here. In this digital age, there is no reason that the City can't have a virtual meeting which we can all attend without having to convene in large numbers. City needs to adopt one of the many platforms that already exist for virtual meetings, most of which allow virtual "attendees" to ask questions.

TheKid5 Mar 08, 2020 11:53 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

It is doubtful that the Grand Princess will sail for several weeks. Mayor Murillo and the City Council have lagged and not been out in front of the corona virus threat. The readers who have commented on the virus' threat to downtown Santa Barbara are 100% correct! The city must place wash stations in all areas that are frequented by transients and the homeless. This is one of the few tourists areas where our local government induces people to use our public areas for toilets and provide no washing facilities, The downtown public library has become a tough place for people to go just to read a publication, as it is used by transients for a cleaning and toilet facility. Pity the poor librarians! Now to the coronavirus---

It is difficult to detect in carriers with no symptoms!
It has a long shelf life on hard surfaces, could be as much as 10 days.
It has no medical cure at this time.
It will come here!
It will overwhelm our health facilities and workers.
Cruise ships have been proven to be floating petri dishes for the coronavirus' spread. Santa Barbara should be closed to any further cruise ship visits because their configuration of close quarters and elderly passengers makes them the most dangerous coronavirus carrier of any form of mass transit. Ask the hundreds of patients who caught the virus on their cruise ship and the thousands whose lives are now trapped on cruise ships.

a-1583723911 Mar 08, 2020 08:18 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

My fiancée and I returned from a 17-day international cruise on February 22, both very sick, both suffering from the exact symptoms of COVID 19--the EXACT symptoms. I contracted the disease, which I presumed was the 2020 flu, on February 14. I started on the antiviral flu medication, Tamiflu, three times a day, with 500 mg of Zithromax to prevent a secondary bacterial infection that my immunologists felt could lead to pneumonia. My fiancée, who was vaccinated against the 2020 flu and who never gets sick, succumbed to the same disease six days later. I was bed-bound for the last five days of the cruise, and we both returned home on Saturday, February 22, feeling very ill, and we have been mostly bed and couch-bound ever since.

I didn't suspect COVID 19 as the pathogen. Still, I wanted to be sure, so I contacted my immunologists and general physician Tue February 25. Neither doctor was able to order COVID 19 testing as no place in town was performing the test. My GP contacted the SB County health department about this case, and the doctor in charge listened to the story of our 17-day international cruise. I let her know that the 2,000 passengers were mostly from the US and Canada, virtually all of the 1000 crew members were Asian, from China, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia... With this information in mind--that we both had the identical symptoms of COVOD 19 and had spent 17 days with a thousand Asians on our cruise ship--I now call them "pathogen ships", and had visited six or seven countries, the County Health doctor did not feel that testing was warranted because we were not hospitalized with an acute respiratory disease, nor had we recently visited China, South Korea, or Iran and that our illness seemed to be improving. I again emphasized that the 1000 cruise members were Asians, but that did not seem to matter.

We continued to suffer from what we could only explain as the worst flu of our lives: incessant coughs, fevers, fatigue, disrupted sleep, headaches, and night sweats. On Monday, March 2, I contacted Santa Barbara infectious specialist, Dr. Seth Anderson, as he is a go-to guy when it comes to complex diseases and testing. I left a message that I thought there was a chance we were infected with the COVID 19 virus and likely needed to required immediate testing. I practically begged him to have us tested, and I told him I could come by his office in an N95 mask to minimize risks. I did not receive a return call from Dr. Anderson or his staff. I again contacted my GP and immunologist, and they called all of the labs in town including the County Health Department and reported back to me that nobody was doing testing at this time.

We have been back in Santa Barbara for 15 days, and my fiancée and I are still mostly homebound. We are mostly bed or couch-bound, and this marks my 23 days of severe illness and my fiancée's 17 or 18 days of severe illness--she says, "the sickest I've ever been." I stopped taking the flu antiviral, Tamiflu, that I had been on for 21 straight days as I no longer thought that the flu was the culprit; my fiancée took it for 10 days, but it didn't benefit her either. My confidence grows that the likely pathogen causing our illness is COVID 19. Yet we still cannot get tested.

Nobody has told us to self-quarantine, though we have done this as much as possible. We returned to an empty refrigerator and pantry after being away 20 days, so we made a few trips to the grocery and drug stores. But otherwise, we've had food delivered and have picked up food to go, trying to minimize our exposure to the general public in case this is the Coronavirus. We had disinfectant wipes in our hands when we were out.

I am sad and disheartened that the CDC was unable to handle the single most crucial aspect of any potential epidemic: provide accurate, rapid testing. The current presidential administration cut their budget CDC budget and the offices of epidemic/pandemic awareness and the epidemic/pandemic task force. There has been much discussion about the failure of this administration's ability to listen to scientists on many scientific matters, including global warming.

South Korea performed something like 30,000 COVID 19 tests within ONE WEEK after their first case of a community spread COVID 19 case. The US had conducted less than 2,000 tests as of the end of last Friday, almost two months after this disease was on the move, more than three months since the virus started to spread on December 19, 2019.

The administration asked the CDC to no longer show the number of
COVID 19 tests performed and the number of positive results on its website daily; that information has removed entirely. We all know why: a high number of cases reflects poorly on the administration in the face of financial cuts to the CCD and the groups responsible for protecting Americans against epidemics/pandemics.

The good news is that my fiancée and I have been slowly improving for the past six days, and it is clear that this disease, no matter what it is, will not take our lives. I have hope that we have COVID 19 because that means that we not only survive this horrible disease, but we did.

That would be particularly good news for the tens of millions of ME/CFS patients worldwide who believe that infection by this virus could end their lives.

I'm here to say that that will not be the case in my situation, and my finance's too, and what should add even more hope to others is our ages--I am 63, and my fiancée is 57.

We will likely still be mostly self-quarantined for the next week or two, and are still desperately trying to get tested. But we must go out to get groceries and supplies. And in doing so, are we exposing the community to the COVID-19 virus?

sbmh2015 Mar 08, 2020 08:27 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

I strongly suggest you contact the CDC. It is disgraceful that we don't have the testing available. I would contact your doctor again tomorrow. Hope you feel better soon

Seabird Mar 08, 2020 09:45 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Jesus. So very sorry to hear about your suffering, as well as the ineptitude you've been met with. Our little bubble of Santa Blahblahblah is sorely unprepared to deal with very real world issues - Covid-19 included. I would contact the investigative reporter at KEYT, CJ Ward with your story. People here need to know how utterly unprepared we actually are. Sadly, putting individuals and infrastructure on public blast seems to be the only way to effect change nowadays. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. And thank you for taking it upon yourselves to be diligent on behalf of your fellow community. Glad to hear you are on the upswing, and I hope for a speedy and full recovery very soon! Hang in there.

a-1583731168 Mar 08, 2020 10:19 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

RX label dose for Tamiflu is for 5 days - two times a day. You took it for 21 days, 3 times a day. Have you discussed with your doctor the side effects for both these very powerful drugs, that you took well beyond their ordinary label recommendations?

a-1583737897 Mar 09, 2020 12:11 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

The City needs a plan to help residents who are symptomatic remain at home and don't need to venture out. This is a time when we really need to do everything we can to make sure this disease doesn't spread throughout the community. We should be canceling events at the Bowl, Earth Day, graduations, 4th of July, wine festivals and anything else that brings large groups to town. The CDC also needs to get it act together. This woman and her fiance need testing.

ChemicalSuperFreak Mar 09, 2020 02:23 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

I read your story and became very sad. My heart goes out to you and your fiancée, and I'm hoping for both your full recoveries. Your story is instructive, highlighting our apparent lack of preparedness as a community. I will not ascribe blame to any agency or political party, but only note that we must not rely on any of them. It's up to us to manage this crisis, with diligent sanitation habits and responsible behavior. Again, my best wishes to you both. Your story moved me.

a-1583770240 Mar 09, 2020 09:10 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

17 day international cruise and you don't know if you visited six or seven countries? Where did you actually go. Where did you start and where did you end up.

a-1583770821 Mar 09, 2020 09:20 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Plus the report states Tamifllu was taken three times a day, instead of the recommended twice a day for 5 days only. The list of Tamiflu side effects is long and is probably the reason this reporting party continues to feel so bad - taking RX drugs off label is not to be encouraged, let alone celebrated as virtuous conduct. This entire original post was irresponsible, yet stands while rebuttal posts were censored. As a public information exhange, it is too bad when it gets misused to push political propaganda and dangerous medical falsehoods.

a-1583864287 Mar 10, 2020 11:18 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Read what is going on in Italy. Soctors ran out of ventilators and other equipment and are reduced to watching their patients die without being able to help them.

therealbebe Mar 08, 2020 10:46 PM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Call me strange, but I have oft remembered a certain Edhat thread a little over two years ago, when the City was preparing for the first big rainstorm by issuing warnings following the Thomas Fire. That thread received a lot of attention. There was one commenter who especially struck me - he mocked the warnings, and dismissed them by saying that yes, he lived in Montecito, but he had a flashlight and plenty of beer. Times like these, I wonder how that guy fared, and which particular Crow he ended up eating the next morning.

a-1583768170 Mar 09, 2020 08:36 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

TV personality Dr Drew Pinski reports: ......"“A bad flu season is 80,000 dead, we’ve got about 18,000 dead from influenza this year, we have a hundred from corona,” Dr. Drew said. “Which should you be worried about, influenza or Corona? A hundred versus 18,000? It’s not a trick question. And look, everything that’s going on with the New York cleaning the subways and everyone using Clorox wipes and get your flu shot, which should be the other message, that’s good. That’s a good thing, so I have no problem with the behaviors.”

“What I have a problem with is the panic and the fact that businesses are getting destroyed, that people’s lives are being upended, not by the virus, but by the panic,” Dr. Drew continued. “The panic must stop. And the press, they really somehow need to be held accountable because they are hurting people.”.....

a-1583776340 Mar 09, 2020 10:52 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Those with compromised health have as much as a 6% to 15% death rate. The rate everyone is talking about includes a lot younger and healthier people which drags down the rate. Those with with cancer, heart problems, asthma, hypertension or something else have substantially increased death rate. FROM The ARTICLE: "According to one study of 45,000 confirmed cases in China, fewer than 1.0% of healthy people who contracted the COVID-19 virus died from the disease. But that percentage was around 6.0% for people with cancer, hypertension or chronic respiratory disease, 7.3% for those with diabetes and 10.5% for those with cardiovascular disease. Patients who were 80 or older were also at increased risk, with 14.8% dying."

a-1583864511 Mar 10, 2020 11:21 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Read the heartbreaking stories from doctors in Italy. They ran out of ventilators and other equipment and could only watch their patients die without being able to help them.

a-1583769627 Mar 09, 2020 09:00 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

When I first read the account below about the 63 year old and his fiancee being sick, I got worried. Then I sat on it, and spoke to a few friends, and we all noticed the politicizing towards the end which most would not do if they were so sick. So I spoke to friend who is a medical professional and here is what they told me. The account below is unlikely true because Tamiflu is only prescribed for 5 days, period. no more. No one can even take it for 10 days let alone 21 because no doctor would prescribe that. I think it is sick that ppl would make up stories just to either scare ppl or get them to hate or not vote for Trump. And though I was concerned about this virus I am now wondering about it and the stories/panic being created. Stay calm ppl, and keep and open mind that perhaps there is an agenda here, like the commenter below.

a-1583864700 Mar 10, 2020 11:25 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Go read the stories from doctors in Italy who ran out of ventilators and other equipment and had to watch their patients die. Does OUR County have all the equipmwnt they will need to keep the 37% of us over 50 years of age alive?

dw2000 Mar 09, 2020 09:33 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Hello all, to say we are living in a politically charged time would be an understatement. I too was shocked by the story below of the 63 year old and fiance. Then I saw the replies about "political agenda" and Tamiflu not being prescribed for more than 10 days. Which got me wondering... "is that true?" I went to the Tamiflu website ( and clicked the link for "prescribing information" at the bottom. It took me to a PDF with the following information:

"Adults and Adolescents (13 years of age and older)The recommended dosage of TAMIFLU for prophylaxis of influenza in adults and adolescents 13 years and older is 75 mg orally once daily (one 75 mg capsule or 12.5 mL of oral suspension once daily) for at least 10 days following close contact with an infected individual and up to 6 weeks during a community outbreak. In immunocompromised patients, TAMIFLU may be continued for up to 12 weeks [see Use in Specific Populations (8.9)]. The duration of protection lasts for as long as TAMIFLU dosing is continued."

So this tells me that it is not uncommon to prescribed for at LEAST 10 days and potential could be 6-12 weeks. While the longer duration is unlikely, the current situation with the Covid-19 is far from typical.

I guess the points/suggestions I am trying to make here are:

1) You can take Tamiflu for more than 10 days
2) Yes we should always review internet comments with a healthy dose of skepticism (trust but verify)
3) We must be careful not to make incorrect assertions or shoot down others without doing due diligence based on our OWN political biases

I hope that I have followed my own advice. I would have to do a little more research to determine whether I think the post is totally credible.

dw2000 Mar 09, 2020 09:37 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Sorry, wanted to add... given the current political climate a person adding a political vent to their comment doesn't mean what they are saying isn't true. That being said I agree with the person below who said "stay calm ppl, and keep and open mind that there is an agenda here".... good advice anywhere on the internet nowadays.

a-1583772003 Mar 09, 2020 09:40 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

You failed to make the distinction between treatment and prevention. The poster was treating her signs of infection with both Tamiflu and Xithromax. The longer duration recommendation was for prevention - for those who are not sick but may be in danger of getting sick. Huge difference that is obvious when one reads this prescribing information closely. The original poster was also taking dru three times a day as well as three times as long, per label directions. You need to also include the side effects for this drug which may well be why this poster contintues to report feeling so bad. Xithromax is not a benign drug either -so this was a huge drug assault, very capable of causing debilitating side effects. It was ultimately a very irresponsible post and I am sorry to see it survived the very tight moderator censorship now in place on this topic.

a-1583865894 Mar 10, 2020 11:44 AM
Public Health Department Preparing for Coronavirus

Anyone who thinks people are overreacting should go online and read posts from Italy. Doctors ran out of ventilators and other equipment and could do nothing but watch their patients die. Then ask yourself, does our city have enough equipment to keep the 37% of us who are over 50 years of age alive?

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