Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 3/3 – Southwest Oregon Firewise Communities, Jackson County Public Health Opens New Vaccination Clinic

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Sunny, with a high near 66. Light north wind.

Thursday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 64. South southeast wind 6 to 11 mph increasing to 13 to 18 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 28 mph.

Friday- Rain likely, mainly after 4pm. Snow level 4200 feet rising to 5300 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 57. South southeast wind 10 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Saturday– A 30 percent chance of rain before 10am. Snow level 4200 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.

Sunday– A chance of rain, mainly after 10am. Snow level 2600 feet rising to 3300 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 50.

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Oregon reports 269 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 13 new deaths

There are 13 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,225. The Oregon Health Authority reported 269 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 156,037.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (3), Clackamas (20), Columbia (2), Coos (3), Crook (1), Deschutes (6), Douglas (20), Gilliam (1), Harney (2), Jackson (44), Jefferson (2), Josephine (20), Klamath (5), Lake (2), Lane (24), Lincoln (3), Linn (6), Marion (26), Morrow (1), Multnomah (28), Polk (4), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (11), Union (1), Washington (23) and Yamhill (6).  

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 10,911 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 3,894 doses were administered on March 1 and 7,017 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 1.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

Oregon has now administered a cumulative total of 997,448 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 1,244,505 doses of vaccine have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data, and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today.

As of March 1, everyone in Phase 1A and groups 1-5 of Phase 1B is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon. That includes:

  • Health care workers and first responders
  • Long-term care residents
  • K-12 educators and school staff
  • Childcare providers
  • People 65 and older

First Case of P.1 Variant Detected in Oregon

OHA was notified yesterday that a person in Oregon, identified as a Douglas County resident, has tested positive with the variant COVID-19 virus strain originally detected in Brazil.

A coronavirus variant that was first detected in Brazil has emerged in Oregon, the first known case of the new variant on the contiguous U.S. West Coast, medical authorities said Tuesday.

This is the first identification in Oregon of the Brazil variant strain, also called strain P.1. The individual has known travel history prior to testing positive. The individual has worked closely with the local health department and has followed public health recommendations for self-isolating.

The sample was sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the end of January by medical officials in Douglas County, Oregon. They said they received the results back on Monday night, which showed the P.1 variant.

“The P.1 variant … appears to be related to business travel outside the United States to and from Brazil,” the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team said in a statement Tuesday.

The variant, which was first found in Manaus, Brazil, appears to be more contagious than other COVID-19 strains. It can potentially be contracted by someone who was already infected or who has been vaccinated.

There have been 10 additional cases of the P.1 variant reported in the U.S., with five in Florida, two in Minnesota and one each in Oklahoma, Alaska and Maryland, the CDC says.

Health officials in Douglas County, located in western Oregon, said they are awaiting results of other samples that were sent to the CDC for genome sequence DNA testing for emerging COVID-19 variants.

The Oregon Health Authority said the unidentified person who contracted the Brazilian variant has been working closely with the local health department and has been self-isolating.

University of Oregon Identifies ‘California Variant’ in Lane County

The COVID-19 B.1.429 variant — also known as the California variant because of where it first was found — has been detected in Lane County, public health officials announced Tuesday. 

The variant was identified in samples submitted to the University of Oregon Genomics and Cell Characterization Core Facility. The samples are deidentified, meaning neither Lane County Public Health nor the university has a way to track the person who has it. 

On Tuesday, Lane County Senior Public Health Officer Dr. Patrick Luedtke assured residents that variants are to be expected. 

“It’s normal for viruses to mutate,” Luedtke said. “RNA viruses, like this COVID virus, they’re less stable than DNA viruses, and the RNA molecule is inherently less stable than DNA.”

Luedtke explained that part of the reason the COVID-19 virus has quickly mutated into so many variants is the inherent instability of RNA, as well as a lack of what’s called “proofreading,” a term used in genetics that refers to the error-correcting processes during DNA replication.

“For DNA viruses, there’s a proofreading function that allows mistakes to be fixed,” Luedtke said. “But RNA viruses don’t have that proofreading, so these viruses make lots and lots of variants, all the time.”

Jackson County Public Health Opens New Vaccination Clinic as People 65 and Older Become Eligible

Oregonians 65 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 1. To help get people vaccinated Jackson County Public Health has opened a “high through-put community vaccination clinic.”

Jackson County Medical Director, Dr. Jim Shames said this clinic is being called the “Community COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic,” it is in partnership with Asante, Providence, and Public Health. It is located at Asante on Black Oak Drive in Medford.

This vaccination site began as a small-scale clinic with only Asante, but as of late last week the clinic was expanded to become a large-scale community effort amongst health officials and to accept more appointments.

Dr. Shames said won’t be as big as what Jackson County saw at the Expo Center’s mass vaccination events, but there will be roughly 20 people there to answer phone calls and make appointments for things run faster.

“We don’t have as much vaccines as we would like,” Dr. Shames said. “We could do more if we had more, but I think we’ve got a plan in place to handle over 65.”

He said this new site is currently open and operational for people to call and make individual appointments. The phone number to call is 541-789-2813.

Jackson County is still experiencing a vaccine shortage and health officials say there will not be another mass vaccination event at the Jackson County Expo Center until more doses are available.

“We have been told by the administration that we are going to get more vaccine shortly and I do believe that’s true,” Dr. Shames said. “And so I would say for those that are frustrated and feel like they’ve waited long enough, I think that we will have significantly more vaccines probably in a couple of weeks. So hang in there, we hear you. We’re really working very hard as a community to get vaccines into arms. I see it as definitely a bright light at the end of a pretty long tunnel.”

Dr. Shames said Jackson County Public Health is expecting to hold a press conference early this week to give more details on the new clinic and to get the word out.

Community COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic This is a high-throughput vaccination clinic supported by Asante, Providence, and Jackson County Public Health located in Medford. Anyone eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine per Oregon’s prioritization schedule can make an appointment at the Community COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic. Schedule an appointment: call 541-789-2813 and press option #2

For the time being, these three retail pharmacies are set to offer (limited) appointments:

ROGUE VALLEY HEADLINES:

Southwest Oregon has more new Firewise Communities than any other part of the state, adding to efforts to lower wildfire risk

Southwest Oregon had the most new Firewise communities of any region in Oregon last year. Firewise communities conduct yearly projects to reduce wildfire risk, such as these firefighters are doing by burning a pile of excess woody debris.

Five neighborhoods in Ashland, Central Point, Jacksonville and Shady Cove joined the national Firewise program last year – the most of any region in Oregon. The neighborhoods were among 182 communities across the state that conducted a variety of projects from cutting brush to thinning overcrowded stands of trees, to clearing brush away from evacuation routes and promoting education and outreach. This places Oregon in second place nationally for number of Firewise communities. The Oregon Department of Forestry manages the program in Oregon.

The new Firewise communities are:

  • Ashland – Glenn Vista Estates and Mill Pond Homeowners Association
  • Bend – Boonesborough POA, Mountain High, Touchmark at Mt. Bachelor Village and Wyndemere
  • Canyon City – Canyon Creek Lane
  • Central Point – Jackson Oaks Neighborhood Association
  • Culver – Forest Park Estates – Grandview
  • Glendale – Old Booth Lane – Harrel Lane
  • Grants Pass – Birdseye Cr., Board Shanty, Hugo/Hidden Pine Drive and Woodson Drive
  • Jacksonville – Timber Ridge Homeowners Association
  • Mill City – Dogwood Road
  • Oakridge – Greater Oakridge-Westfir
  • Portland – Linnton
  • Shady Cove – Deerfield Park 1 and 2
  • Sisters – Indian Ford Meadows East and Trout Creek Village
  • Springfield – Wallace Creek
  • West Linn – Skyline Ridge Neighborhood

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s National Fire Plan Coordinator, Jenna Trentadue, who manages the Firewise program in Oregon said, “Staff in our local ODF offices partner with fire departments to work with communities across the state to organize projects or activities that reduce wildfire risk. Through this process, those communities become designated as Firewise.”

FIREWISE COMMUNITY | Homestead Valley Community Association

To achieve the designation, communities must have at least eight participating dwelling units and conduct at least one event or activity related to reducing fire risk. Firewise is a nationwide program of the National Fire Protection Association. Oregon Dept. of Forestry

Ex-UPS Driver Sentenced to 20 years for I-5 Shootings

A former UPS driver charged in shootings that injured a woman and damaged vehicles along Interstate 5 in Southern Oregon has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Kenneth Ayers, of Roseburg, was sentenced Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court for three counts of attempted murder, five counts of unlawful use of a weapon, three counts of reckless endangerment, and four counts of criminal mischief. Ayers declined to speak at sentencing.

Ayers, 49, pleaded guilty to the charges last week. From May to August 2020, multiple drivers reported to Oregon State Police that their vehicles had sustained damage from bullets, including flattened tires, loss of power steering and a pierced coolant hose in a semi. There was no apparent pattern to the shootings.

They happened in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties during the day and night and happened to vehicles traveling north and south.

On Aug. 19, a woman was shot in the shoulder while driving on I-5 between Gold Hill and Central Point and police arrested Ayers about 60 miles (96 kilometers) away. He was employed by UPS as a driver at the time.

Police Identify Teenage Suspect in Killing on The Bear Creek Greenway

The Medford Police Department has identified the 17-year-old suspect in homicide on the Bear Creek Greenway last week, along with providing more details about the investigation that led to his arrest.

According to the agency, officers responded just after 1 p.m. on Friday to reports of a possible shooting on the Greenway north of Railroad Park. On arrival, the officers found a man lying dead with an apparent gunshot wound to the head. The victim’s body was discovered near a tent, which investigators later found belonged to him.

Investigators canvassed the area, and witnesses reported hearing an argument from the victim’s tent just prior to the shooting. Descriptions of the other party were limited, MPD said.

Detectives later executed a search warrant on the tent — finding evidence linking a 17-year-old male to the location, according to MPD. The juvenile, now identified as Levi Murray, was located about 10 p.m. that evening in the parking lot of Ray’s Food Place in Phoenix. Police gave a home address for Murray in the 2100-block of Table Rock Road.

“[Murray] was interviewed and admitted to shooting the victim over a rather minor dispute,” MPD said.

The agency said that Murray helped detectives recover the gun that was used in the murder, finding it in some brush about 100 yards from the scene. The gun had been reported stolen to Medford Police in October of 2020.

“Detectives are still working on locating next of kin for the deceased. His name will not be released until that notification has been made,” MPD concluded.

The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday morning that Murray could be waived into criminal court instead of being tried as a juvenile.

Before 2019, Oregon law allowed for juveniles ages 15 and above who committed Measure 11 crimes to be tried as adults without going through the juvenile system. The legislature passed a bill in May of that year which changed how youth who commit serious crimes are prosecuted.

“While Senate Bill 1008 took away the state’s ability to file Measure 11 crimes directly into criminal court, it created a process for youths ages 15, 16, and 17 to be waived into adult court for certain crimes, including Measure 11 crimes after a hearing in juvenile court,” the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Under the new requirements, prosecutors must file a motion requesting a waiver hearing in order to take the case to adult court. In order to waive a youth to criminal court, the judge must find that the youth was of “sufficient sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of the conduct involved” at the time of the offense, the DA’s Office said.

“The judge may waive a youth to criminal court if after looking at the following factors, the judge determines by a preponderance of evidence that retaining jurisdiction will not serve the best interests of the youth and of society and therefore, is not justified,” the DA’s Office continued.

The factors to be considered are:

  1. The amenability of the youth to treatment and rehabilitation available between juvenile and criminal court
  2. Protection to the community given the seriousness of the offense and if the youth can be safely rehabilitated under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court
  3. The aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner in which the offense was alleged to have been committed
  4. The previous history of the youth including prior treatment and out of home placements and the physical, emotional and mental health of the youth
  5. The youth’s prior record of acts that would be crimes if committed by an adult
  6. The prosecutive merit of the case
  7. The desirability of disposing all cases in one trial if there were adult co-offenders

The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office says that it has filed a waiver hearing request under the new law — the first such request in Jackson County since the law passed — and the juvenile court will be setting a date for the waiver hearing.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Oregon Schools Have Spent Bulk of Federal Aid So Far on Virtual Learning

About $121 million that has arrived in Oregon so far, helping schools across the state purchase laptops, internet hotspots and program licenses to set up the virtual learning programs that have dominated the Oregon classroom experience over the last year.

Since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has earmarked nearly $620 million in emergency funds for Oregon schools. But a second round of federal funds is expected to deliver another $499 million to school districts by the end of the month, the state’s share of a $900 billion relief bill passed in December.

And the bulk of that money should go toward reopening schools. What that looks like will differ from district to district.

Some may need to upgrade dated ventilation systems or purchase air filters and fans. Others might opt to renovate classrooms to provide more space for students as the pandemic wears on.

Mike Wiltfong, the Oregon Department of Education’s director of school finance and facilities, said schools that are already open for in-person instruction provide a glimpse at how districts will need to spend federal aid.

“We’re already seeing where schools are struggling — some students sit in the hallway,” he told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Wiltfong is concerned that Oregon schools will start burning through their federal aid allocations as districts begin rolling out their in-person offerings. Back in December, about 50,000 of Oregon’s 580,000 public K-12 students were getting some sort of in-person instruction. As of last week, that number was just over 136,000.

Only two Portland-area districts, Lake Oswego and West Linn-Wilsonville, have begun bringing elementary students back into classrooms. Most other districts will do so later this month.

Wiltfong said that once Oregon schools fully reopen for in-person learning, it’ll cost about $500 per student to educate them safely every year, or about $290 million.

Even though the White House has pledged to inoculate every adult in the country by the end of May, it doesn’t mean COVID-19 goes away. And that means schools will still need a steady supply of hand sanitizer and cleaning materials.

Some may even have to take on construction projects to increase ventilation or expand classrooms.

“What is going to be the appropriate spacing for students in the future?” Wiltfong said. “What happens if we have a run-in with another variant of the virus?”

The federal government didn’t just cut Oregon schools a $121 million check and call it good. Schools had to first make their purchases, then submit receipts to the state Department of Education for reimbursement.

“School districts are not sitting on a bunch of money,” Wiltfong told The Oregonian/OregonLive, citing speculation he’s heard to the contrary.

Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest district, has so far spent nearly $23 million in coronavirus-related expenses. Officials have been able to apply for reimbursements of about $7 million in federal aid so far.

The district spent nearly $13 million over the last year on laptops, headsets, software and mobile hotspots as students went virtual.

But the district also spent more than $4 million to upgrade schools in preparation for the return of in-person instruction. That includes ventilation system inspections, signage, plexiglas dividers and portable air filtration systems.

Portland Public Schools has also spent more than $3 million on learning material and personnel for hybrid and limited in-person instruction. Personal protective equipment has cost the district more than $1 million.

Health and safety supplies, including mobile nurse carts, consultations and cleaning cost another $1 million.

The initial wave of federal relief came last March when little was known about the virus. Because of that, Wiltfong said, guidelines for spending the money were broad.

Districts could tap into federal aid to pay for meal deliveries while schools were closed. Or they could spend the cash on Chromebooks and software for virtual learning.

“Basically,” Wiltfong said, “it went toward anything a principal deemed appropriate.”

Portland Public Schools will be able to tap into another $27 million in federal aid when the Oregon Department of Education opens up the second round. And if the U.S. Senate passes the $1.9 trillion aid package approved by the House in late February, the district will have another $70 million at its disposal.

COVID-19 1/4 u2032s long-term effects on Oregon education spending don’t stop there. Wiltfong expects districts will have to invest in personnel to help make up learning losses over the past year.

In Portland Public Schools, officials don’t know how much that’s going to cost. Spokesperson Karen Werstein said district leaders may have more information during a March 11 school board meeting.

Wiltfong said districts are wary of tapping into too much of the federal pot at this point in the pandemic. Even though Oregon’s economy fared better than expected over the last year and schools avoided much-feared cuts in funding, that sort of fortune isn’t guaranteed in the future. And such unknowns are part of the reason districts have until September of next year to apply for reimbursements for federal coronavirus aid. “They’re proceeding in the best manner they can based on local decisions,” Wiltfong said.

Dozens of Earthquakes Occur over 45 Minutes at Mount Hood

Newly discovered fault makes scientists wary of Mt Hood earthquake

45-minute “earthquake swarm” reported this week near Oregon’s Mount Hood has the U.S. Geological Survey offering explanations — and reassurance the volcano is not becoming more active.

Dozens of earthquakes, most not felt on the surface, came in succession around 12:13 p.m. Monday, centered about a half mile southwest of the volcano, geologists say.

Data show the quakes came from 3 to 4 miles beneath the summit, officials said Tuesday. The volcano is about 75 miles southeast of Portland

“The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network located eight events so far with a maximum magnitude of M 1.3; dozens of other events were too small to locate,” the USGS posted.

“The recent earthquakes at Mount Hood are interpreted to be the movement of hydrothermal fluids along preexisting faults,” the USGS said.

“What we are seeing is slip on a fault or faults. It is easiest to achieve such earthquakes if you push a little water in there and ‘jack’ the fault apart just enough to induce slip,” the statement read. “It may be possible to do the same thing with magma, but … water is much less viscous and able to penetrate any weakness in the pre-existing rock.”

ShakeAlert Oregon starts March 11th – https://www.usgs.gov/news/shakealert-pacific-northwest-rollout?qt-news_science_products=1#qt-news_science_products

Community Garden Caretaker Murdered in Springfield

The death of a man who was the onsite caretaker of a community garden has been ruled a homicide, Springfield Police said Wednesday.

Police were called to 705 Flamingo Ave., at about 9:30 p.m. Monday. The location is the address of the Food for Lane County Youth Farm, a large community garden. There they found the body of Richard Marshall, 70, who was the onsite caretaker of the garden.

Marshall lived on the property in his RV and had been the volunteer caretaker at the Youth Farm since spring 2011.  “Food for Lane County staff was saddened Tuesday morning to learn of the tragic death of Richard Marshall,” Food for Lane County said in a statement. 

Marshall was last seen alive on Friday morning.

Police said their investigation determined that Marshall’s death was a homicide. Members of the Oregon State Police Crime lab also responded to help look for evidence.

The investigation is ongoing and police are asking anyone with information on any suspicious activity in the area to call Investigations at 541-726-3721.

Wyden Introduces Bill to Help Oregon Ranchers Stay in Business

The following is a press release from the office of Ron Wyden, United States Senator of Oregon.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) today with U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), introduced legislation that would restore transparency and accountability in the cattle market by establishing regional cash minimums and equipping producers with more market information. 

“Cattle ranchers and rural economies have been hit especially hard during the COVID-19 public health crisis. And that economic fallout gets compounded for Oregon producers who face both a lack of processing facilities and opaque cattle markets that add up to a serious disadvantage,” Wyden said. “This detailed and common-sense bipartisan bill would provide our state’s rural producers the transparency and accountability they need to negotiate fair prices, stay in business and continue generating jobs throughout Oregon.”   

The Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021 would:

  1. Establish regional mandatory minimum thresholds of negotiated cash and negotiated grid trades to enable price discovery in cattle marketing regions.
  2. Require USDA to create and maintain a publicly available library of marketing contracts between packers and producers in a manner that ensures confidentiality.
  3. Mandate that a packer report to USDA the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter each day for the next 14 days and require USDA to report this information on a daily basis.
  4. Prohibit the USDA from using confidentiality as a justification for not reporting and makes clear that USDA must report all LMR information, and they must do so in a manner that ensures confidentiality.

Download Summary
Download the full legislation

Reward Offered for Tips in Eastern Oregon Blow Gun Poaching Case

Investigators with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are offering a $1,000 reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a person who has been shooting mule deer with blow gun darts in eastern Oregon, officials said Tuesday.

A dart is an inhumane way to kill a deer': $1K reward for tips in Oregon  poaching case | KATU

Oregon State Police troopers found the carcass of a fawn in the city of Burns in November. The young animal had a blow gun dart lodged in its neck. Three more mule deer were found with similar injuries over the following months, but biologists were able to remove the darts and release the animals.

On Feb. 13, troopers got a call about an injured doe in the city. The animal had a dart stuck in her side and was in failing health, officials said, and the deer had to be euthanized.

It is illegal to hunt deer with blow guns in Oregon. While the darts they fire are effective at killing smaller animals like rabbits and squirrels, blow guns can cause slow and painful deaths in larger animals, according to Rod Klus, a state biologist.

“Either the wound will lead to an infection, or if the stomach or intestines are punctured, the deer will die, but it will take a while, and it will be painful,” he said in a statement. “It takes a deer anywhere from days to weeks to die from infection.”

Mule deer populations have been dropping recently, according to Fred Walasavage, Chair of the Oregon Hunters Association, and animals in places like Burns, where they’ve become acclimated to humans, make for easy poaching targets.

“It is no secret that mule deer populations continue to be on a decline in Oregon,” Walasavage said in a statement. “Granted there are many factors such as habitat loss, road kills, and predation but when it comes to intentionally poaching wildlife, that’s where OHA members draw the line.”

Aside from the cruelty to the animals themselves, these types of investigations pull troopers from other duties they could be performing, said Klus.

University of Oregon to Return to In-Person Classes

University of Oregon - FIRE

The University of Oregon will go back to predominately in-person instruction for the fall term, officials said.

President Michael Schill says the decision was made following an announcement Friday from Gov. Kate Brown that higher education will be included in the state’s next phase of vaccinations, the Register-Guard reported.

Employees of the state’s public and private colleges and universities will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination starting May 1.

In January, the university announced it was “ramping up planning” to provide access to COVID-19 vaccines for faculty, staff and students quickly when supplies become available.

The University of Oregon also has provided logistical support to current local vaccine efforts.

According to the Oregon Health Authority’s phased approach to distribution, the majority of University of Oregon students are included in Phase 2. The University will offer vaccinations to students in jointly sponsored clinics during that phase of the process.

Oregon Problem Gambling Resource

Youth & Gambling

When you call, a certified gambling addiction counselor will listen, educate, answer questions, and refer you to a free and confidential treatment services.

There are approximately 46 providers throughout the state of Oregon providing FREE, state-funded, confidential gambling treatment to Oregon residents and their families or friends. All counselors are trained and certified in gambling addiction. https://www.opgr.org

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