Coronavirus Legal News and Information
McDonald Carano COVID-19 Resources:
McDonald Carano will provide information and materials designed to keep employers up to date and informed about the evolving landscape concerning COVID-19 and related matters.
Employment & Labor COVID-19 Updates
May 14, 2020, Law360–Thompson & Knight LLP’s recent firing of a document services manager who referenced guns in a Facebook rant lambasting a store’s rule requiring him to wear a mask could foreshadow contentious interactions that await employers if returning workers bristle at new safety mandates. The Texas-based firm late last week said it had learned an administrative employee made a “threatening and offensive” post on his personal social media page that was “a complete violation” of the firm’s values and its commitment to health and safety of surrounding communities. The firm said it fired the worker and “notified the proper authorities” about the post.
May 12, 2020, Las Vegas Business Press–On March 18, Nevada’s governor issued the Nevada Health Response COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Initiative. The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NVOSHA) followed suit by publishing a set of guidelines to support the March 18 Risk Mitigation Initiative. Those guidelines established social distancing protocols for essential businesses operating in the mining, construction and manufacturing industries. Since that time, as the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, so too have the various governmental agencies’ responses and plans, including those of NVOSHA.
May 1, 2020–In the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis spanning the globe, Nevada retailers must navigate a complex web of intersecting guidelines, duties, and obligations. New laws, regulations, and emergency declarations are a daily—if not hourly—occurrence. In the meantime, pre-pandemic laws and regulations remain in effect, though some have been modified.
April 22, 2020–Even more layoffs may be on the way in response to the coronavirus recession. Are you prepared to make reductions in force quickly and fairly? Time is of the essence with layoffs after alternatives such as pay cuts and furloughs have been tried or ruled out. Kristen Gallagher, an attorney with McDonald Carano in Las Vegas, and Laura Jacobsen, an attorney with McDonald Carano in Reno, Nevada, cautioned employers against these common mistakes businesses make when conducting layoff.
April 6, 2020–The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), is a loan program designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. Approved businesses may use the proceeds to cover ongoing “payroll costs” (as defined under the CARES Act) which includes employee payroll, healthcare costs, rent, utilities and other debt incurred by the business.
March 28, 2020–After issuing a smaller set of FAQs earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a comprehensive list of questions and answers as employers grapple with various paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.
March 28, 2020–This afternoon, the president signed the CARES Act into law. It provides relief for business and employees struggling with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small and mid-size businesses (and even some very large businesses in certain industries) may be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans administered by the Small Business Administration.
March 19, 2020–Laura Jacobsen and Kristen T. Gallagher provide a summary of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act passed by Congress on March 19, 2020 which covers all employers with less than 500 employees, even those with fewer than 50 employees.
March 14, 2020–It is important to communicate with your employees and, depending on your business, your clients and guests, to let them know you are mindful of the seriousness of the current atmosphere and you are taking every precaution to limit risk and maintain safety to the extent possible under these circumstances.
Government Affairs COVID-19 Updates
Phase 2 Formal Directive Issued – After Governor Steve Sisolak outlined Phase 2 reopening plans Tuesday, the formal Directive and guidelines have now been released and are scheduled to expire June 30. The 12-page guidance further details what is allowed to reopen at this time. You can find the full directive here.
Additional Reopening Information – In addition to Governor Steve Sisolak’s prepared remarks released Tuesday night, the state has also put together the Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery chart that outlines what is open with limitations and what is still restricted. Establishments that are still unable to reopen include nightclubs and day clubs, adult entertainment establishments, and brothels. Governor Sisolak stated that more information will be made available in the near future on additional Phase 2 steps, such as putting a more robust contract tracing system into place, coordinating with the Department of Corrections on testing for all inmates and facility staff, putting together a plan to reopen public offices, and working with local districts on reopening youth sports and recreation. While a formal directive was issued for Phase 1, a formal directive for Phase 2 has yet to be released.
After dealing with technical difficulties, Governor Steve Sisolak’s office released further information Tuesday night on a Phase 2 reopening plan for Nevada.
Nationwide Numbers – The United States is poised to exceed 100,000 COVID-19 deaths sometime in the next few days, however experts estimate that the true count is probably closer to 130,000 at this point in the pandemic. In 2019, on average 7,500 Americans died during a typical day in the summer, while about 8,000 died during the winter. In the last two months of COVID-19, deaths across the country surged, peaking to more than 10,000 per day. The death toll is greater than the combined death county from every war the U.S. has fought in over the past 60 years, such as the Vietnam War, Iraq, and Afghanistan Wars.
Request to Extend the Ballot Question Signature Deadline– A federal judge heard arguments Thursday from backers of the proposed constitutional ballot question that would create an independent redistricting commission, after they filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office seeking to extend the signature gathering deadline and allow the use of electronic signatures. Fair Maps Nevada, the group backing the initiative, claim that the ability to gather the needed signatures to qualify for the ballot has been hindered due to stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Backers currently need to collect 97,598 ink signatures by June 24 to be placed on the ballot.
Largest COVID-19 Vaccine Trial – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Thursday that it would provide up to $1.2-billion to the drug company AstraZeneca to develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The deal is the fourth and largest vaccine research agreement that the department has disclosed. The money will pay for a clinical trial of the potential vaccine to be administered to 30,000 U.S. volunteers this summer. The agency and drug maker are also collaborating to produce at least 300 million doses, with the first doses projected to be available as early as October. Most public health officials and scientists, however, caution the accelerated, ambitious timeline, warning that a viable vaccine with the ability to be mass produced would probably not be available until sometime next year at the earliest.
President Trump Threatens Nevada Funding – President Donald Trump began Wednesday by writing a threatening tweet aimed at Nevada, saying that if the state proceeds with its mostly mail-in primary election, he would withhold federal funding. Nevada lawmakers were quick to respond, backing up Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s March decision to hold the mail-in primary due to COVID-19 concerns. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and members of the Congressional delegation took exception to President Trump’s threat with tweets of their own.
Illness Found in Children Linked to COVID-19 – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an emergency advisory to health officials across the country last week, advising them to be aware of certain symptoms that are causing a new illness among children. The CDC has since released a new case definition for the illness, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and confirmed the illness is related to COVID-19. The syndrome has been reported in at least 17 states and D.C., as the CDC continues to gather research on the relatively unknown illness. During a webinar held Tuesday afternoon, CDC officials provided details on what is known about the syndrome, including symptoms, demographics and recovery rates. In studies, the majority of children with MIS-C tested negative for COVID-19 but positive for the antibodies, indicating past infection. Further information presented by CDC researchers on MIS-C during the webinar can be found here: CDC MIS-C Information.
Nevada COVID-19 Response Director – Governor Steve Sisolak announced Monday the appointment of Caleb Cage as the State of Nevada COVID-19 Response Director. Cage is the former head of the State Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and was most recently the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development and Community Colleges at the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE). The new position, which is funded by federal dollars, will work with multiple state, local and federal jurisdictions, focusing on testing efforts and capacity, contract tracing, and the coordination of resources.
Governor Sisolak Press Conference – Governor Steve Sisolak held a press conference Friday to provide Nevadans an update on Phase 1 of the Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery plan and share new developments in the state’s hospitalization and testing capacity. Governor Sisolak noted that Nevada is on day 20 of consistent downward trajectory in daily new coronavirus cases and day 14 of a steady drop in coronavirus-related hospitalizations. Additionally, nearly one week after restaurants and certain retail businesses were given the green light to reopen, the Department of Industrial Relations is reporting widespread compliance with state-imposed restrictions. The state is continuing to ramp up testing capacity, opening new locations statewide that allow residents to self-administer tests and arrive without an appointment. Governor Sisolak cautioned that while the status of Phase 1 is positive, there is not a set date for Nevada to transition to Phase 2, and if continued compliance is not met there could be a possibility of rolling back certain Phase 1 openings. Initially, most southern Nevada cities were targeting Monday, May 18 for Phase 2.
Cities and Counties Reopening & Phase 2? – The City of Henderson will be the first major municipality to open its doors for business to the public at 7:30 a.m. this Monday, May 18. The City of Las Vegas and Clark County are conducting business by appointment-only and are targeting June 1 for a full reopening to the public. North Las Vegas is also aiming for a June 1 reopening of City Hall – but the cities of Reno and Sparks have not yet announced reopening dates. However, the City of Sparks and Washoe County are available by appointment only. All reopening plans are subject to change, based on COVID-19 incident numbers. Initially, the majority of southern Nevada cities had hoped to move to Phase 2 by Monday, May 18th. Each governmental entity is closely monitoring case numbers.
Reno-Tahoe Airport Traffic Down 95-Percent – In a press call on Wednesday, Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority CEO Marily Mora noted passenger traffic in the airport is down roughly 95-percent this month as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt travel. About 545 passengers were expected to fly out of the airport on Wednesday, a substantial amount lower than the roughly 5,500 passengers seen this time last year. However, the number is up from the approximate 200 daily passengers seen in mid-April at the height of social distancing orders. Mora projects it may be years before the airport returns to its pre-pandemic levels of normalcy. Currently, airport staff are required to wear facial protection as one of the several steps the airport is taking to protect both employees and passengers.
Updates from Nevada – New COVID-19 cases in Nevada rose significantly from Sunday to Monday after testing capacity had its biggest jump over the last two months. The cumulative test positivity rate reached 12.2-percent on April 24, but has since decreased to 9.8-percent. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no more than a 10-percent positivity rate before a state reopens. Almost all of Nevada is reporting green levels for hospital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), although some smaller jurisdictions are reporting yellow levels due to the difficulty placing orders as a result of volume purchasing limitations. Green levels indicate that hospitals are in a normal range of on-hand supplies, while yellow levels mean that supply is only sufficient for the next week or two.
Fiscal State of Emergency – Governor Steve Sisolak declared a state “fiscal emergency” Monday, the first step in allowing officials to tap into a $400-million budget reserve, known as the Rainy Day Fund. Lawmakers set the stage for the fiscal emergency after scheduling an item on the Interim Finance Committee’s agenda to be considered Wednesday. Governor Steve Sisolak said in a statement, “With the closure of Nevada businesses, including the gaming industry, that was necessary to protect the health of Nevadans, the drop in revenue is not unexpected and it is significant. While we appreciate the additional assistance from the federal government to help address the immediate funding needs for the public crisis, the state is now in a position where (we) will be forced to make very difficult decisions.” State fiscal analysts estimate revenue shortfall to be between $741-million and $911-million for the fiscal year ending on June 30. That amount is estimated to be almost a fifth of the state’s 2020 budget, set for $4.5-billion.
Local Governments Take Action on Reopening Plans – One day after Governor Sisolak laid out details for the first phase of his plan to reopen Nevada and awarded local governments the authority to implement stricter policies, some jurisdictions have begun to consider individual strategies. On Friday, the Clark County Commission voted unanimously not to adopt any additional COVID-19 regulations beyond those at the state level. Washoe County, City of Reno, and City of Sparks also announced Friday they will follow Governor Sisolak’s plan to reopen as well, allowing many businesses to resume operations on Saturday, May 9. Washoe County released a comprehensive 19-page document outlining requirements for certain businesses to begin operating within Phase 1 and providing industry-specific guidance. The full document can be found here. Additionally, Lyon County Commissioners announced their plan to hold a special meeting next Wednesday to discuss their plan, though noted that employees are still encouraged to telework if possible and county buildings will remain open by appointment only.
IFC to Access Rainy Day Funds – In response to steep shortfalls in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic, legislators on the Interim Finance Committee (IFC) will meet next Wednesday to vote on a measure that will release more than $400-million in budget reserves from the state’s Rainy Day fund, otherwise known as the Account to Stabilize the Operation of State Government. The committee will take a motion to declare the state to be in a “fiscal emergency,” making the first of several procedural steps necessary to access the funds. The vote on Wednesday does not definitively determine the amount of money that will be taken out of the Rainy Day fund, nor to which state agencies the money will the allocated. Last month, fiscal analyst Jeremy Aguero estimated an approximate $700-million to $900-million decrease in total revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30.
White House Task Force Will Continue – The day after Vice President Pence announced that the White House coronavirus task force will wind down by the end of the month, President Trump reversed course, stating that the panel will continue “indefinitely.” Citing the group’s popularity, the President told reporters, “it is appreciated by the public.” In a tweet Wednesday, President Trump suggested that task force members may be added or subtracted from the panel, as appropriate, and that concentration will shift to vaccines and therapeutic treatments. The group had already begun meeting less frequently and is anticipated to hold fewer White House briefings.
Elective Medical Procedures Resume – Renown Health in Reno announced Tuesday that the hospital will resume limited medical and surgical procedures after more than six weeks of suspension. Procedures for non-high-risk patients, excluding the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, will resume beginning May 11. Until a vaccine or proven COVID-19 treatment is available, however, Renown is taking extra steps to prevent the spread of the virus, including screening individuals as they enter Renown sites, testing patients for COVID-19 that are scheduled for procedures up to five days prior to scheduled surgery and adding visitor restrictions.
Department of Business & Industry Guidance for Businesses – In a letter released Monday, Interim Administrator of the Division of Industrial Relations (DIR) Victoria Carreon provided a list of guiding principles for businesses to follow as they begin to develop COVID-19 reopening action plans. Region-specific resources are available for those requiring help in developing a plan, as well as federal OSHA guidelines, CDC resources and links to the Nevada Health Response website. The full letter can be found here: DIR Reopening Letter
Emergency Directive 017– Governor Steve Sisolak signed his seventeenth emergency directive Friday morning to provide additional economic relief to Nevadans. The directive freezes certain garnishment actions and executions of judgements against bank accounts, including Nevadans receiving the CARES Act stimulus funds. The directive does not apply to judgements for child support, spousal support or to restitution to victims of crimes. In signing the directive, Governor Sisolak follows the lead of other state governors in the Western State Pact – California, Oregon and Washington. The full directive can be found here: Emergency Directive 017
Sisolak Announces ‘Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery’ – Governor Steve Sisolak held a press conference Thursday night to provide details on the “Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery” state-specific reopening plan that was announced by his office on Tuesday. The Governor provided context surrounding the plan, noting that it appears Nevada may have reached its COVID-19 peak on April 24 and rate of infection has been steadily declining since.
Governor Sisolak’s Reopen Announcement on ABC – Governor Steve Sisolak announced in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning American (GMA) Wednesday morning that he plans to extend Nevada’s stay-at-home order previously scheduled to be lifted tomorrow, Thursday, April 30. The Governor indicated the first phase will start with easing restrictions on retail curbside pickup and allowing some outdoor activities currently shutdown. As Nevada prepares for its next steps, Governor Sisolak tweeted Tuesday that details of his newly announced reopening framework, named “Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery,” would be revealed Thursday. You can find the full video of his GMA interview here.
Nevada Recovery Announcement Thursday – Governor Sisolak announced in a Tweet Tuesday that his Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery plan will be unveiled Thursday, the same day many in the state anticipated the Governor would lift the stay-at-home order. Additionally, Sisolak suggested “big announcements” will be made every day this week. Our team will provide in-depth details in our daily updates.
Western States Pact – Governor Sisolak announced Monday that Nevada officially joined the Western States Pact, joining California, Oregon, Washington and the newest additional member Colorado. In a press release, the group was defined as a “working group of Western state governors with a shared vision for modifying stay-at-home and fighting COVID-19.”
Additional Guidance for Landlords and Tenants– The Governor’s Office issued clarifying guidance on Wednesday for landlords and tenants to reference as the Governor’s Emergency Directive 008 prohibiting evictions continues.
NFL Draft Gets Another Shot in Las Vegas – During last night’s virtual NFL Draft, which was originally slated to take place in Las Vegas prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revealed that Las Vegas will have another opportunity to host the draft in 2022.
NFL Draft Goes Virtual – The annual NFL Draft, an event that normally marks one of the biggest marquee events in sports television, is being conducted virtually this year as the nation continues to adjust to COVID-19.
Board of Examiners Approves $5.1M for DETR – Members of the Nevada State Board of Examiners (BOE) met on Thursday and unanimously approved two contracts aimed at helping the state’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) handle the unprecedented growth in unemployment claims and call volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
GCB Releases Requirements for Reopening – The Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) released a memo Wednesday outlining the procedures casinos must follow in order to reopen once the state’s business closures are lifted.
Sisolak Lays Out Initial Steps for Nevada’s Reopening– In a Tuesday evening press conference, Governor Sisolak provided an update on the status of COVID-19 in the state and laid out the beginning stages of his office’s plan to re-open Nevada’s economy. Sisolak was joined by various state and public health officials to discuss developments in Nevada’s COVID-19 trajectory, testing capabilities and hospital capacity. According to Nevada’s health experts, data shows a general decline in coronavirus-related hospitalization, ICU patients and ventilator use. State Epidemiologist Melissa Peek-Bullock said increasing testing capabilities will be the key to fully grasping Nevada’s situation.
The Return of Sports?– As sporting leagues across the country enter another week of canceled events, some leagues are coming up with ambitious ways to bring entertainment back.
President Trump “OK” with Sisolak’s Stay-at-Home Order– President Donald J. Trump was asked during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing over the weekend whether he agreed with Governor Sisolak’s total shutdown of non-essential businesses in Nevada through the end of April.
Governor Sisolak on Re-Opening the State– Thursday night, Governor Sisolak held a press conference to update Nevadans on the state’s path to re-opening the economy. While details were limited, the Governor assured his constituents that plans will become public once they are finalized by his administration, which he projected will be next week.
Nevada Receives Smallest Amount of Emergency Loan Funds for Population– According to data from the Small Business Administration (SBA), Nevada received the fewest number of loans and least amount of money from the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program compared to other states with similar population.
New Governor Sisolak Directive 014– Governor Sisolak issued Nevada’s fourteenth emergency directive late Tuesday in coordination with the Nevada Department of Education to alleviate the unintended burdens of distance education on high school students, parents and teachers.
Convention Centers Make Cuts– The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) approved a $79-million cut to its 2020 fiscal budget, which will include staff layoffs and furloughs and a drastic reduction in operating expenses.
Nevada Attorney General Announces New Task Force– Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich announced Monday the formation of a Nevada COVID-19 Task Force aimed at enhancing consumer protection amid the coronavirus.
Battle Born Medical Corps– A week after Governor Sisolak called upon health professionals to join the volunteer-based Battle Born Medical Corps, 751 individuals, including 112 physicians, 294 nurses and 56 paramedics, have risen to the occasion to help expand Nevada’s medical capacity.
First Round of Nevada Money for Healthcare – The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)announced how the Provider Relief Fund will be distributed amongst states, totaling $100-billion in relief funds to hospitals and other healthcare providers. Effective Friday, the first $30-billion will be distributed, with more than $240-million of this initial allocation coming to Nevada.
The Culinary Union’s international parent union, UNTITE HERE, held a virtual press conference with its leadership Thursday to discuss the gaming industry’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling upon casino companies nationwide to take better care of employees.
Governor Sisolak’s Newest Directive – Governor Sisolak held a press conference this evening to announce and provide insight on directive 013, signed today, that enforces stricter social distancing guidelines, additional closures and guidance on in-person gatherings. Recreation venues (golf courses and athletic courts), showrooms (automotive, appliance and more), places of worship, open houses, in-home barbers and stylists, grocery stores…
Interim Finance Committee Approves Funds to Fight Coronavirus – The Interim Finance Committee (“IFC”), chaired by Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, held a virtual meeting Tuesday morning to discuss and vote on agenda items related to emergency funds to aid Nevada in its response to COVID-19. IFC unanimously approved two grants totaling $6.25-million to the Division of Emergency Management from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”). These funds will allow the state to purchase additional personal protection equipment and other necessary, scarce resources. Additionally, IFC members approved a request from Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office to transfer $2-million in settlement funds to the United Way of Southern Nevada. This assistance is aimed toward individuals and families struggling to feel secure in housing, despite the state’s current moratorium on evictions, by providing temporary rental and mortgage assistance.
Nevada Hero of the Day – Through all of the confusion this pandemic brings, one aspect everyone can agree to lies in the fact that our doctors, nurses, police and EMS officers, teachers, and anyone else on the front line continue to do their absolute best for Nevada’s residents.
In a letter sent to all Nevada state agency directors and administrators Friday afternoon, Governor Sisolak is asking officials to identify the potential of areas for reduction in their budgets as the state continues to face the financial realities of the COVID-19 crisis.
In a press conference Wednesday night, Governor Sisolak announced two additional emergency declaration directives aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic in Nevada.
While Governor Sisolak has been asking residents to “Stay Home for Nevada’’ for weeks, the newest directive from his office formally issues a stay at home order and mandates extended closures of all nonessential businesses, gaming and schools until April 30.
At an emergency board meeting Tuesday morning, the Southern Nevada Health District unanimously approved spending for a temporary lodging facility for those affected or displaced by COVID-19.
In a press conference Sunday afternoon, Governor Steve Sisolak announced a statewide moratorium on evictions for both residential and commercial tenants for the duration of the state of emergency.
As of Thursday, of all the licensed hospital beds in Nevada, 67% are in use. The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The $2.2-trillion package is aimed at supporting jobless Americans, boosting businesses, and providing support for healthcare workers.
In one week, Nevada had 93,036 people file initial claims for unemployment, up from only 6,356 initial claims filed the week prior. McDonald Carano’s Government Affairs team addresses the Senate Stimulus Package and what the CARES Act achieves.
Governor Sisolak signed an additional emergency directive on Tuesday that prohibits gatherings of ten or more people in any indoor or outdoor public area. The Senate is expected to vote on a $2 trillion stimulus package after reaching a breakthrough in negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other Trump administration officials early Wednesday morning.
Federal officials have granted authority to the state of Nevada to give final approval on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 testing materials, rather than requiring the state to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed three additional Declaration of Emergency Directives between Friday and today. Today also marks day eight of the White House’s 15-day plan to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Our Government Affairs & Advocacy Team is dedicated to keeping you informed of pertinent information as we continue facing the novel Coronavirus. We will be providing updates on the matter over the course of the next few weeks.
It’s been one week since Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak declared a State of Emergency for the state of Nevada in response to the growing presence of COVID-19 cases in the state. Since that time, state and local governments have imposed additional measures with the goal to mitigate and ultimately contain the rapidly developing situation.
Nevada Department of Public Safety Updates
In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Governor Sisolak signed an emergency directive prohibiting gatherings of groups of 10 or more in any indoor or outdoor public area, public or private.
The Nevada COVID-19 Task Force is working to connect resources with community needs and remove barriers so as to facilitate direct and efficient communication between community partners and the appropriate authorities.
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