At least 126 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in London and Middlesex on Wednesday as the province announced it had declared a third state of emergency and would implement a month-long provincewide stay-at-home order at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Under the order, stores providing essential goods will remain open but will only be permitted to sell grocery and pharmacy items. Non-essential retail can open only for curbside pickup or delivery.
The local pandemic case tally now stands at 7,825, of which 6,687 have resolved, an increase of 61 from the day before. At least 190 deaths have been reported during the pandemic, most recently on Saturday.
At least 948 cases are active.
The Stay-At-Home order requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes.
➡️ Going to the grocery store or pharmacy
➡️ Accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated and tested)
➡️ Outdoor exercise
➡️ Going to work that cannot be done remotely
— MLHealthUnit (@MLHealthUnit) April 7, 2021
According to health unit figures, the London-Middlesex region has recorded at least 641 cases in the last six days, more than was recorded during the whole month of February, and more than half of what was recorded through the month of March.
The region’s seven-day rolling case average stands at 104.42 as of Wednesday, up from 60 the seven days previous.
At the same time, the region’s test positivity rate stood at 5.9 per cent as of the week of March 28 on 10,313 tests, about the same as the provincial rate. The tally is up from 3.2 the week before (9,587 tests), and 1.6 the week before that (9,343 tests).
Of the 124 new cases Wednesday, 122 are from London, three are from Middlesex County, and one is pending location data.
Roughly 81 per cent of those infected, 101 cases, involve people under the age of 40, health unit data shows. At least 70 per cent of cases involve people under 30.
At least 35 cases involve people 19 or younger while 52 involve people in their 20s and 14 people in their 30s. Eight cases each involve people in their 40s and 50s, while seven involve people in their 60s.
Local contact tracing efforts have been hampered by the recent spike in cases — 116 of the 124 cases reported Wednesday were still pending exposure source data while nine were listed as being due to close contact. One had no known link.
At least 466 cases in the region have screened positive for one or more spike gene mutations consistent with a variant of concern, an increase of 52 from the day before.
Another nine have since been confirmed through genomic sequencing to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K. Many other cases are currently undergoing such sequencing.
Health unit data shows variant cases have been making up more and more of the region’s caseload, from 13.8 per cent the week of March 7 to 36.2 per cent as of the week of March 28.
- According to Public Health Ontario, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been found to have only the N501Y spike gene mutation, while variants B.1.351 and P.1, first detected in South Africa and Brazil respectively, have been associated with spike gene mutations N501Y, K417N, and E484K.
- As a result, the province is now presuming that any cases that screen positive for just the N501Y mutation involve the B.1.1.7 variant and are not sending them for further genomic sequencing. It’s unclear whether MLHU plans to add these presumed cases to the ‘confirmed’ tally in the future, despite not undergoing full genomic sequencing.
During Tuesday’s scheduled media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie noted that the significant number of recent cases involving young people was the result of social gatherings and not front-line essential workers who can’t work from home.
(Of the 641 cases reported so far this month, 227 have involved people 19 and younger while 228 have involved people in their 20s. Together, people under 30 account for about 71 per cent of all cases reported in London-Middlesex since April 1, according to health unit data.)
“We are not seeing a vulnerable group from a demographics perspective. What we’re seeing is unfortunate behaviour among, as usual, a very small minority,” Mackie said.
“The vast majority of students at Western, Fanshawe, even (the) broader population of young adults, are following guidelines, keeping their distance, staying home, masking, etc. But enough of the subgroup are partying, gathering in large numbers and not following distancing and masking measures.”
Included in the local pandemic case tally are roughly 89 infections that have been reported as a result of multiple outbreaks at Western University residences.
At least six were still active as of Wednesday. In addition, another four are said to be active off campus.
In addition to making up 70 per cent of all cases this month, people under 30 also account for roughly 70 per cent of all cases that have screened variant positive in the region so far during the pandemic — 329 of 466.
Variants have been found to spread more easily in young people, and can be more dangerous, Mackie has said previously, “in the range of 50 to 60 per cent more likely to put a young person into the intensive care unit than the previous variants.”
At least 6,897 cases have been confirmed in the city of London since the pandemic began, while 289 have been in Middlesex Centre.
Elsewhere, 245 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 103 in Thames Centre, 60 in Lucan Biddulph, 45 in Southwest Middlesex, 44 in North Middlesex, 14 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.
At least 126 cases have pending location information.
At least 27 COVID-19 inpatients are in the care of London Health Sciences Centre as of Wednesday, an increase of two from the day before and nine from a week ago.
At the same time, 12 are currently in critical or intensive care, an increase of three from the day before, while active staff cases at LHSC number nine, down one from a day earlier.
During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Adam Dukelow, LHSC’s chief medical officer, said that of the 12 people currently in intensive care, five are under the age of 60.
In addition, seven of the 12 are from outside of London, transferred to LHSC from the GTA and Thunder Bay, he said.
“Consistent with our colleagues’ experiences across Ontario, we are seeing younger patients that require a higher level of care during this wave three versus one and wave two,” Dukelow said.
“As other hospitals experience very high or full occupancy, COVID-19 patients will continue to be transferred to hospitals with more capacity to care for them, such as LHSC… With climbing hospitalisations across the province, we anticipate receiving more ICU and ward-level patients from other cities this week, as do some of our partner hospitals that surround London.”
Dukelow said increased London admissions, or admissions from other parts of Ontario, will result in a need to open additional local ICU beds. That, he says, will likely mean a decrease in surgical activity in order to staff them.
“This is not what we want to do, but it may be what we have to do in the coming days,” he said.
At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, meantime, no COVID-19 patients were listed in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital, however several cases are located elsewhere within the organization.
Eight patient cases are active at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building as a result of an ongoing outbreak in the facility’s G2, G5, and H2 units, the organization reported Tuesday.
At least 16 staff cases are active within St. Joseph’s Health Care London, with 11 linked to the Parkwood outbreak.
At least 394 people have been hospitalized in London-Middlesex for COVID-19 during the pandemic, with at least 71 needing intensive care.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared, but one has resolved.
The outbreak had been active on the first floor of Kensington Village’s long-term care home since March 27.
Three institutional outbreaks are active in the region as of Wednesday, with one at Henley Place LTC Residence (Victoria Unit), and two at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building (G2, G5, & H2).
Elsewhere, health officials have confirmed that a workplace outbreak is active at a London food processing plant.
During Tuesday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie confirmed that upwards of nine cases had been identified at the Cargill facility in London as a result of an outbreak there.
“That outbreak is also linked to a number of community cases as well that are beyond the Cargill staff,” Mackie said.
Few other details have been released. 980 CFPL has reached out to Cargill for comment.
A non-institutional outbreak also remains active at the city’s jail, with additional new cases reported.
The outbreak at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre has at least nine active inmate cases listed there as of Monday, an increase of eight from the previous update on March 31, provincial data shows.
At least 37 inmate cases and 29 staff cases have been reported at the facility since the outbreak was declared on Jan. 18.
Non-institutional outbreaks are also active at six separate Western University student residences.
At least four new school cases have been reported, with two associated with St. Anne Catholic School and one each involving Bonaventure Public School and Medway Secondary School.
In addition, “widespread exposure to COVID-19” has prompted the closure of Ashley Oaks Public School in London for the remainder of the week, according to the Thames Valley District School Board.
In a letter sent home to parents, the school board said the move came as a result of widespread exposure that resulted in “a high number of students and staff at Ashley Oaks Public School… required to quarantine.”
Students at the school are being placed in remote learning for Thursday and Friday and will return back to in-person learning on April 19 after next week’s April break.
“Classroom teachers will contact families with information for remote learning,” read the notice sent home to parents.
“During this time, all Before and After School Programs are closed, including programming scheduled at the school for Spring Break.”
At least 20 school-linked cases are currently active in the London-Middlesex region, according to the health unit. A full list can be found on the MLHU website.
No new school outbreaks have been declared, but at least five are active:
- Ekcoe Central Echool
- Holy Rosary Catholic School
- Northridge Public School
- Riverbend Academy
- Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School.
The Thames Valley District School Board says local schools will remain open during the province’s four-week stay-at-home order.
“At this time, our local public health units support schools remaining open because we continue to have very low school-based transmission of COVID-19. The data demonstrates that our schools are safe,” said Mark Fisher, TVDSB’s director of education, in a statement.
Fisher added he approved of the province’s plans to make education workers who provide direct daily support to students with special education needs eligible for the vaccine during the April break.
Education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel will be vaccine eligible starting next week, expanding to other high-risk areas later.
Last week, local health officials stated that there was little evidence of spread of COVID within the schools themselves, adding that much of it was reflective of spread within the community.
The health unit says that at least 277 cases have been reported at local elementary and secondary schools during the pandemic, with an additional 32 that have been reported at child care and early years settings.
At least three cases associated with child care/early years were listed as active Wednesday by the health unit, with one each active at Little Acorns Early Childhood Learning Centre – London Bridge, Misty’s Home Daycare, and Rowntree Park Early Childhood Learning Centre, according to the health unit website.
In the post-secondary world, six outbreaks remain active at Western University student residences, declared on:
- April 4 at Essex Hall
- April 2 at Delaware Hall
- March 30 at Elgin Hall
- March 31 at Medway-Sydenham Hall
- March 26 at Saugeen-Maitland Hall
- March 25 at Ontario Hall.
Together, the six are linked to at least 89 cases, according to the health unit. The outbreak at Saugeen-Maitland Hall was tied to the largest number of cases with 30.
“Those are essentially dwarfed by the cases outside of residence. Cases and outbreaks that have been associated with social events off-campus, post secondary from various places, have created more cases than those in residence,” Dr. Chris Mackie said Tuesday.
“The other thing very concerning about those is that many of our variants of concern come from those outbreaks in the off-campus parties and the residences that are on campus.”
As previously reported, roughly 70 per cent of all variant cases reported in London-Middlesex have involved people under 30.
“(We’re) really encouraging students, and Western is as well, to get tested before they return to their home communities, because we don’t want them spreading COVId there. (We’re) actually encouraging all students, even if they don’t get tested, to quarantine when they return home.”
In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Western brass announced last week that the majority of in-person classes and final exams would be moved online starting April 5.
In addition, the university was also encouraging students living in residence to move out early if possible, saying prorated refunds will be offered to those who move out on April 11 or earlier.
Vaccinations and Testing
The local vaccination campaign continues to roll on, with people aged 65 and older eligible to receive a vaccine at a local mass vaccination clinic as of Tuesday.
Local health officials say they anticipate expanding local bookings to people 60 and over within a week.
(A reminder that the Middlesex-London Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health use their own joint local booking system instead of the province’s. As a result, news that the provincial system is allowing people 60 and older to register does not change things here.)
Eligible residents are asked to visit the local vaccine booking website or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume.
More information on eligibility can be found on the MLHU’s website.
At the same time, two local pharmacies, located at the west London Costco and the Shoppers Drug Mart at 603 Fanshawe Park Rd. W., are offering doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to people 55 and older as part of a separate province-led program.
For that, residents need to contact the two pharmacies directly to make an appointment. A full list of participating pharmacies in Ontario can be found on the province’s website.
London Mayor Ed Holder said Tuesday that he has reached out to Premier Doug Ford about the small number of participating pharmacies compared to other regions.
“Given our size, the fact that we have just two is not acceptable. It is my hope we will receive some positive news on that front in the coming days.”
Health unit data shows roughly 95,000 vaccines have been administered locally so far, with an average of between 2,000 and 2,200 shots being administered per day at the region’s three operating vaccination clinics.
Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson are the vaccines currently approved in Canada. The first three require two shots administered several weeks apart while the fourth requires only one. J&J vaccines have not yet arrived in Canada.
Local health officials have said previously that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are what is being administered at area mass vaccination clinics.
During Tuesday’s scheduled MLHU media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said about 11,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine would be arriving locally in mid-April along with another 8,000 in late April, but noted the amount is still not enough to allow the region’s three vaccination clinics to operate at full capacity.
Late last month, Mackie described the local vaccination strategy as “earn and burn,” where the health unit is doling out vaccine quickly or quicker than it’s arriving. The vaccine supply limitations have also continued to delay plans to open a fourth mass vaccination clinic at Earl Nichols Arena.
“It’s predictable, it’s not perfectly stable,” Mackie said of planned vaccine shipments.
“The number of Pfizer doses we’ll be receiving over the next few weeks actually goes down a bit from around 13,000 to 11,000. But we are receiving more Moderna doses than we are losing in Pfizer doses over that time.”
Mackie was also asked about increasing calls to prioritize and vaccinate front-line essential workers, like teachers and warehouse workers, amid growing rates of variant spread and younger people in hospitals.
Mackie said he wished there was more vaccine to immunize everyone, but likened the current situation to one of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
“Peter is experiencing 97 per cent of the deaths in Ontario. Ninety-seven per cent of the deaths in Ontario are in people over the age of 60,” Mackie said.
“The number one goal of any pandemic response is to prevent deaths. We should be targeting those who are at highest risk of death or those who care for them. That’s what the campaign is doing right now.
“Those decisions happen at the provincial level, we can’t change them at the local level, but we do support them because of that focus on deaths.”
Meantime, the region’s two main assessment centres, meantime, located at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, remain open and operating by appointment.
According to the health unit, roughly 3.2 per cent of tests were coming back positive as of the week of March 21, up from 1.6 the previous week, and 1.2 the week before that.
Ontario reported 3,215 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 1,095 new cases in Toronto, 596 in Peel Region, and 342 in York Region.
She also says there are 225 new cases in Ottawa and 187 in Durham Region.
Ontario says a record 104,382 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the province since Tuesday’s update.
Ontario residents are facing new stay-at-home orders as officials in several provinces tighten restrictions and crack down on rule-breakers in a race against COVID-19 and its variants.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and it will mean stores selling essential items can stay open but will only be permitted to sell grocery and pharmacy items.
The announcement means Ontarians will join residents of Quebec and Alberta in waking up to new restrictions Thursday.
Elgin and Oxford
Nine new coronavirus cases have been reported in Elgin-Oxford, officials with Southwestern Public Health said Wednesday.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 2,920, of which 2,739 have resolved, an increase of 17 from the day before. At least 69 deaths have been reported, most recently on March 29.
At least 112 cases are listed as active in the region, with 39 in Woodstock, 24 in St. Thomas, and 11 each in Aylmer and Tillsonburg.
Five people are currently in hospital, with two in the ICU, according to the health unit.
Meantime, the number of cases that have screened variant positive rose by three to a total of 95. At least 22 cases are listed as active.
Six of the 92 cases have undergone further genomic sequencing and have been confirmed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.
An additional 83 are presumed by the province to involve the same variant as they screened positive for only one spike gene mutation — N501Y.
- According to Public Health Ontario, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been associated with only the N501Y spike gene mutation, while variants B.1.351 and P.1, first detected in South Africa and Brazil respectively, have been associated with spike gene mutations N501Y, K417N, and E484K.
- As a result, the province is now presuming that any cases that screen positive for just the N501Y mutation involve the B.1.1.7 variant and are not sending them for further genomic sequencing.
Three cases, two active and one resolved, have have screened positive for the E484K spike gene mutation, while three cases, two active and one resolved, screened positive for both E484K and N501Y.
Genomic sequencing is ongoing to determine the specific variant involved in the three cases.
SWPH says roughly 13,697 residents in the region have seen at least one dose, while at least 4,008 have been fully immunized as of March 27, the most recent update.
People over 65 are currently eligible to receive the vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic along with previously eligible groups.
In addition, five pharmacies in the region are allowed to offer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to adults 55 and older. Two are in Ingersoll, two are in St. Thomas, and two are in Woodstock. Appointments should be made directly with a participating pharmacy.
More information on the local vaccination campaign can be found on the health unit website.
Local health officials say they are expecting additional vaccine supplies to help those living in the postal code N5H, centered largely around Aylmer, after it was named as a “hot spot” by the province on Tuesday.
The N5H postal code is one of dozens the province identified as a “hot spot” across 13 separate public health units, and is the only one named in the London area.
“We will take a multi-faceted approach that will include working with pharmacies, family health care providers, and a mobile team. We want to be accessible and available at locations that feel comfortable for residents,” said Dr. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for SWPH, in a statement Wednesday.
The postal code has seen a large number of cases during the pandemic, due in part to an outbreak at the Ontario Police College, cases within long-term care homes and schools, and large social gatherings, Lock said.
“We are aware, due to our work providing immunizations to school aged children, that there is a lower rate of overall vaccination in this region,” Lock noted, adding that the health unit would work with the community to tackle local vaccine hesitancy.
At least one new school case has been reported in the region, located at Parkside Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas, according to the Thames Valley District School Board.
It’s among several active cases associated with schools in the region.
According to TVDSB, Central Public School in Woodstock remains temporarily closed. One active case is associated with the school currently.
School board officials announced early last week that the school would close temporarily, with all students moving to full remote learning “due to significant exposure and a high number of students and staff required to quarantine.”
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared, and only one is active.
The outbreak was declared on April 2 at Caressant Care Bonnie Place in St. Thomas, and is associated with one resident case and one staff case.
The health unit says a total of 627 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, while 483 have been in St. Thomas, 475 in Aylmer, and 357 in Tillsonburg.
Elsewhere, 211 cases have been in Norwich, 165 in Bayham, 144 in Ingersoll, 120 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 66 in Central Elgin, 60 in Blandford-Blenheim, 60 in Zorra, 58 in South-West Oxford, 28 in Dutton/Dunwich, 26 in Southwold, 24 in West Elgin and 15 in Malahide.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 2.2 per cent as of the week of March 28, the same as the week before, but up from 1.8 the week before that.
Huron and Perth
One new coronavirus case has been reported in Huron-Perth, local health officials said Wednesday.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 1,439, of which 1,367 have resolved, an increase of two from the day before. Fifty-one deaths have been reported, most recently on April 6.
The death, officials said in an update, was a community death involving a person who had recovered from a COVID-19 infection but for whom COVID was still “determined to be a contributing cause.”
The heath unit says at least 21 cases are active in the region, with five each in Stratford and West Perth and four in North Perth. One person is currently in hospital, one more than the day before.
The number of screened variant positive cases stands at 20, one more than the day before. No cases
Details on what spike gene mutations were detected during the screening process were not immediately available. No positively screened cases have undergone full genomic sequencing yet to determine a specific variant, according to provincial data
Roughly 25,236 vaccine doses have been administered in Huron-Perth as of April 5, according to the health unit. The tally includes first and second doses.
Health officials in Huron-Perth say adults 65 and older are now eligible to receive a vaccine through the health unit. People turning 65 this year are also eligible.
Huron Perth Public Health, like Elgin-Oxford and London-Middlesex, currently uses its own vaccine booking system rather than the province’s.
“Please do not try to book an appointment if you are not yet eligible. At this time, HPPH is not taking pre-registrations for future eligible groups,” the health unit said in its update.
Information on who is currently eligible can be found on the health unit’s website. Those looking to book a vaccination appointment are asked to do so via the local booking system or by calling 1-833-753-2098.
At the same time, people aged 55 and older are able to receive an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the province’s ongoing pharmacy immunization program.
Several local pharmacies are participating, including in Bayfield, Exeter, and Listowel. A list of locations can be found on the province’s website. Bookings must be done through the pharmacies themselves.
No new outbreaks have been declared and none are currently active, according to the health unit.
No new school cases have been reported either. Two are active in the region, with one located at St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School in Goderich, and one at Jeanne Sauvé Catholic Elementary School in Stratford.
At least 574 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 354 in North Perth and 138 in Perth East, while at least 469 have been reported in Huron County, with 106 in South Huron and 102 in Huron East.
Stratford has reported at least 362 in total, while St. Marys has seen 34.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 0.5 per cent as of the week of March 21, up slightly from the revised rate of 0.4 per cent from a week earlier. Updated numbers are expected this week.
Sarnia and Lambton
One death and four new coronavirus cases have been reported in Lambton County, local health officials said Wednesday.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 2,940, of which 2,759 have resolved, an increase of 34 from the day before.
At least 52 deaths have been reported. Details on the most recent death were not immediately available.
At least 129 cases are considered active in Lambton. Seven people were listed as being in the care of Bluewater Health, two more than the day before.
Thirteen additional cases have screened variant positive, meaning they have been detected to have one or more spike gene mutations associated with a known variant of concern.
So far, at least 170 cases have screened variant positive. It’s unclear what spike gene mutation(s) were detected, which may provide insight into what specific variant it may be.
In addition, none of the screened cases have finished undergoing full genomic sequencing yet to confirm a particular coronavirus variant, according to provincial data.
People aged 60 and older are now eligible to book a vaccine in Lambton County, local health officials said.
It comes after the province opened registration on its booking system to people aged 60 to 69 and those who are turning 60 this year.
(It should be noted that Lambton Public Health uses the province’s online booking system unlike Elgin-Oxford, Huron-Perth, and London-Middlesex which use their own.)
Lambton Public Health says people under 60 who have health conditions defined as ‘highest-risk’, ‘high-risk,’ and ‘at-risk’ by the province, along with one essential caregiver from each of those groups, are also eligible to pre-register for a vaccine.
Those who pre-register will see an email invite to schedule an appointment via the province’s booking system.
More information can be found on the health unit’s website. Those eligible to book a vaccine appointment are asked to visit the health unit’s online vaccine page for details on how to do so, or to call 519-383-8331.
At least 28,495 vaccine doses have been administered in Lambton County as of Wednesday, the most recent update available.
The health unit says three pharmacies in Lambton are also now offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to those 55 and older as part of the province-run pilot program.
“The local pharmacies include Loblaws/Superstore Pharmacy on Murphy Road in Sarnia, Bright’s Grove Family Pharmacy and Forest Pharmacy,” the health unit said, noting that it is not involved in the pilot program, which is being implemented by the province and pharmacies directly.
Residents are asked to book appointments with the pharmacies directly.
It’s unclear how many new school cases may have been reported in the region on Wednesday. Updated figures were not immediately available from the Lambton-Kent District School Board.
Three school outbreaks remain active, located at École élémentaire Les Rapides (three cases), London Road Elementary School (two cases), and LKDSB Virtual Learning Elementary School – Petrolia (two cases).
Meantime, no new institutional outbreaks have been declared and one has ended.
The resolved outbreak was located at Trillium Villa in Sarnia. It was associated with three staff cases.
Three seniors’ facility outbreaks are currently active, declared on:
- March 31 at Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia (one staff case)
- March 23 at Rosewood Retirement Village in Sarnia (19 resident, two staff cases)
- Afton Park Place in Sarnia (two resident, three staff cases).
Three outbreaks are also active at three unnamed workplaces, linked to five, five, and four cases, respectively.
The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 2.4 per cent the week of March 28, down from 3.3 the week before and 3.7 the week before that.
— With files from Gabby Rodrigues and The Canadian Press
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