HB1286 would make travel program uniform statewide

LIHU‘E — Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort General Manager Chip Bahouth wants uniformity.

“The current travel mandates that we have in place are not consistent which forces Kaua‘i into a situation where we’re not very competitive with the other islands,” Bahouth testified Wednesday in support of the state moving forward with House Bill 1286 which would blanket a state-wide Safe Travels program.

Wednesday, the state House’s Committee on Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs amended the bill further into a second draft, clarifying that the governor, not the incident commander, shall establish statewide conditions for automatic exemptions, and adding a new section that would require a state legislature resolution to suspend it.

Both Kaua‘i representatives on the committee, Rep. Nadine K. Nakamura and Rep. James Tokioka, voted in opposition to the bill, which passed out of the committee.

This bill would restrict the County of Kaua‘i from enacting additional rules to the state’s already established set, like its on-going post-arrival test option to be released from quarantine.

These types of additional rules that currently exist, many including hoteliers and business owners say leads to not only confusion but unnecessary devastation.

The Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i is the county’s largest private employer. The hotel initially shut down in March and reopened in November after the state started its Safe Travels program.

When the county began to see a spike in cases and the county opted-out of the program, effectively re-enforcing a 14-day quarantine. The hotel shut down again.

“We employ 850 amazing employees whose unemployment is running out and whose medical coverage is in question from month to month,” Director of Sales and Marketing Katy Britzmann said.

As vaccine distribution ramps up across the country, Britzmann believes “now is the time to come together with a consistent safe travels policy that serves all of the islands.”

And that’s an opinion shared by the Department of Health and Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency.

Former mayor JoAnn Yukimura, on the other hand, spoke in opposition of the bill, along with hundreds of written pieces of opposition. Much of the testimony in opposition to the bill lauded the efforts of Mayor Derek Kawakami and low case counts on Kaua‘i.

“All we’re asking for is a safe program,” Yukimura said, again pointing to the sharp uptick in cases Kaua‘i experienced when the county was briefly open and fully operating on the state’s Safe Travel program which allows out-of-state travelers to bypass a mandatory quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to arrival.

The county allows the Safe Travels rules for inter-island flying with a stipulation that the person traveling has been on another island for at least 72 hours. Another option travelers have is to stay at an Enhanced Quarantine Movement Resort Bubble, which allows them to freely move about a contained hotel property. After three days at one of these properties, a traveler may take a COVID-19 test. Upon a negative result, they will be released. There is no such post-arrival test option for those who wish to stay at a private residence.

Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association President Mufi Hannemann said these various rules compared to the other islands is leading to confusion.

“While we recognize the importance of ‘home rule’ and allowing the county mayors to decide what is best for their communities, the lack of cohesion in rules for travelers and returning residents to Hawai‘i has led to significant confusion, further harming an industry already suffering an unprecedented economic downturn.”

Pono Hawai‘i Initiative Executive Director Gary Hooser said the bill restricts flexibility in a dynamic COVID environment. Hooser suggested working on policies to get the business open would be preferable to a law. “Taking away the county’s right to protect itself is not the way to go,” Hooser said.

Further, Yukimura said that’s a “communication problem, not a policy problem.”

“If you approve this bill based on visitor confusion, it will just reinforce the perception identified in a recent OmniTrak poll that Hawai‘i being run for tourists at the expense of local people.”

It’s about striking a balance, Hannemann said.

“In trying to maintain that balance of adhering to health and safety protocols which have always been our priority and at the same time ensuring visitors could come here in a meaningful, hassle-free way,” Hannemann said.

This story was updated on Thursday, Feb. 18 to correct a misattribution. The measure is House Bill 1286, not Senate Bill 1286.

  1. Mark Spencer February 18, 2021 4:28 am Reply

    Does Kauai want tourists money or not. It’s that simple, business goes where it’s wanted stays where it’s appreciated.

  2. Rae Jean McGowan February 18, 2021 5:08 am Reply

    Are visitors from all foreign country’s held to the same policy’s? Or just people who want to visit from the mainland?

  3. Mounque Barazone February 18, 2021 5:39 am Reply

    I wrote here before and Senator BRIAN SCHATZ with a real plan that would protect all Hawaii and open the economy. He responded he would keep it in mind. I am a 72 year scientist, an inventor with many patents, a business person who was one of three people recently inducted into the construction industries pavement hall of fame. I have spent 41 years solving problems. A two or three test program would allow for tourism and prevent much more of positive people after arrival. A longer result time test at 14 or 10 days depending which science you believe from CDC, which is less cost as there is time for results, if negative a test at 3 days, and if negative a free raid result test on arrival. If that takes time a welcome buffet even with entertainment could be set up and even charged a small fee for or provided free. As they get their negative result at the airport they can leave. This reduces the chance of a person going positive on the island greatly. This will work, increase tourism and jobs and the economy while giving residents the maximum protection..

  4. YuCalJoe February 18, 2021 5:48 am Reply

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know the number of COVID-19 positive tests that have occurred in out of state visitors that have stayed in any of the resort bubbles? If the number is zero, does this program still make sense?

    1. Wahoo February 18, 2021 2:02 pm Reply

      Yes, the County of Kauai has published public releases on their website highlighting, for example, that on Tues and Wed of this week, resort bubbles caught COVID travelers who had been negative in their pre-travel test. So the program makes sense and is working. Moreover, if you look at numbers of travelers posted on the HTA website, you’ll see that Kauai has been getting about 100 travelers per day. So for two days in a row in which only 100 people came in, the resort bubble caught a COVID positive case on each day.

      1. KalaheoResident February 18, 2021 4:30 pm Reply

        There have only been TWO positive tests out of over 1400 people who have participated in the bubbles! The positive tests this week were the only ones for the entire bubble program.

      2. YuCalJoe February 18, 2021 6:30 pm Reply

        Thank you for that information. It does sound like it is working as designed.

  5. nobody February 18, 2021 5:52 am Reply

    Covid numbers are down. The curve is flattened. The State’s Safe Travel Program is working, not just Kauai’s plan.

  6. Uncleaina February 18, 2021 6:56 am Reply

    Mmm “Safe Travels” eh?
    Numbers don’t lie.

    Deaths on Oahu 371
    Dead from Covid on Hawaii 53
    Died slowly of respiratory infection called Covid on Maui 29
    Deaths from Covid on Kauai : 1.

    So the plan is to make the people that allowed 15x more per capita deaths on Maui force us to follow their “Safe” system? All for “uniformity”??? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
    Raise your hand If you’ll sacrifice your family members so that the tourists can go tubing.

  7. Meh February 18, 2021 7:38 am Reply

    Political posturing by hoser and kookimura. The bill should 100% be approved so that residents, extended families, children, travelers etc all have a pathway in order to visit our state. Being and island state has benefits for county border securities. But at this point there is no valid explanation based on all things considered. You can’t say limiting covid impact on our community. Because by doing that you’ve taken our kids out of school, sports and peer activities. Decimated small family run businesses, created homelessness from
    People who can actually afford rent but have nowhere to rent because owners are cashing in on the real estate boom. This is all part of kauai covid response. This has all happened in less than 1 year. From creating a panic stricken leadership.

  8. Mdub February 18, 2021 7:48 am Reply

    While I am opposed to this Bill SB1286 and agree that “taking away Kauai’s right to protect it self is not the way to go” or necessary yet; especially when the evidence of Kauai’s results has been supportive of the Mayor’s actions. However I do believe moving forward as the pandemic improves, we need to continue to look for ways to balance and fine tune the program but do not need an Oahu bill to do this for Kauai.
    For instance, I think many of us agree that this Bubble resort setup while implemented with good intentions is an imperfect program. And it has created a loophole here which should be fixed. The 3 day testing out of quarantine does not apply to those of us who live and either own or rent homes, condos or apartments if we travel. We do not have that option unless we pay to go to a Bubble resort often in our own neighborhoods or visit the other islands on the way back. Many of us still have needs to travel off island for business, relatives and grandkids, etc and on return to our own residences must still quarantine for 10 days without the option given for tourists at the Bubbles for 3 day negative test. Respectfully not only is this costly and inconvenient and unfair, it really seems ridiculous! Even our children coming back to visit cannot stay in their own family residences for 3 days if so when they often only have a week or two to spare if they want to not Quarantine.
    I suggest that we could easily allow a 3 day testing out like we currently are doing for tourism to those returning to residences with a Safe Travels prior negative test flying back. Why not give us the option to test out of 10 day quarantine like the Bubbles again on return after 3 days. I mean really aren’t we safer in our own homes anyway.
    Do appreciate the Mayors efforts and certainly we are grateful for how few Covid cases we now have been having, just would appreciate correcting this unfair loophole in the current program in the meantime, but do not need an Oahu Bill to do this for us.

  9. D. Nantais February 18, 2021 9:02 am Reply

    What seems to get “lost” in all of this noise over HB1286 is that the CDC does not want people to travel at all in the middle of a national pandemic! What part of Do Not Travel does not compute for those who are “confused” about the rules! Im sorry but despite all the pleas for less confusion, the truth still remains….Do Not Travel during a pandemic !The vaccines will
    be a gift to travelers but not until most, if not all, our hotel workers & others who deal with the traveling public are themselves vaccinated.That will not happen for several months at the earliest. I believe Kauai is on the right path because of limited resources, including vaccines.

    We will all “get there” eventually…but not until most folks have had at least 1 dose&we are far
    from that ratio at the moment .So to open ourselves up now without out some protections in place for those of us who live here’s downright disrespectful &dangerous to all of us!

    1. Reality Bites February 18, 2021 3:22 pm Reply

      You must be old and not need to work…..because, you know…….the “Pandemic”. You are a sheep. 99% recovery rate and we now need vaccines for everyone to cover the other 1%. Stop the madness!

      1. Jamie Rainbow February 19, 2021 12:57 pm Reply

        You must own a business, I hope the lack of compassion does not affect your business. As a matter of fact why don’t all of you business owners who want to open Kauai list your business names. Everybody who owns a business and comments is afraid of what the rest of their neighbors will think and do, don’t live in fear.

        1. Aloha808 February 20, 2021 8:05 am Reply

          Business owners are not evil and selfish but your comment is divisive and suggests they only care for the tourist dollar. They speak out for this bill because they want to support their families. They are residents and want to keep living their lives here just like you. They want to safely reopen. Business owners have been disrespected recently because they are categorized as those selling tours, snorkel gear, or cheap trinkets to visitors. How disrespectful! Have you ever thought about a dental office where 50% of their clientele has health insurance through their resort job? How will that dental office fare if they lose 50% of their clients because those clients have now lost health insurance coverage. It’s simple to see that these very tight travel restrictions have repercussions that go deeper than where the stereo typical tourist dollar is spent. Have compassion because business is the lifeblood of the island.

    2. Kara Thrace February 18, 2021 5:19 pm Reply

      Thank you! Good gracious. World wide pandemic with no cure, let’s grab a mai tai guys….

      Not to mention we still don’t know the vaccines’ effectiveness against variants or if those vaccinated can spread the virus.

  10. Patrick Cockett February 18, 2021 9:12 am Reply

    Latest CDC guidelines:the CDC has clarified that after travel one should quarantine for several days and get a second test to exit. Their Feb. 2 guidelines are explicit, including not to travel at all. Safe Travels now clearly goes against these recommendations, and will force all islands to do so. See http://cdc.gov/…/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html Thanks Steve O’neal.

  11. John Patt February 18, 2021 10:04 am Reply

    Opening up to unprotected tourism now will increase the odds that the South African variant of COVID will be introduced here. Reports state that both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have reduced effectiveness against this variant. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/02/18/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world.
    By advocating for HB 1286, the tourism industry is only making life far more difficult for everyone, including and especially itself.

  12. Joe Public February 18, 2021 10:42 am Reply

    Hanneman, Chip, all in the tourism industry, Mayor in the interest of the residents of Kauai, easy choice, the Mayor is proven..

  13. Look Deeply February 18, 2021 10:51 am Reply

    It seems we are ignoring some inconvenient truths.

    1) 95% of the state (by population) has been open to tourism for four months with a single preflight test.

    Forcing Kaua’i, with just 5% of the population, to drop its extra safeguards is not going to revive statewide tourism.

    2) Visitors are not avoiding Hawaii because they can’t figure out how to get here. Close to a million have visited since October 15th. It takes 30 seconds to figure out that you take a preflight test to avoid quarantine in 95% of the state.

    Visitors are not coming to Hawaii at pre-pandemic levels because most have the good sense to follow the advice of the CDC, and their governors, and avoid traveling in the middle of a crisis when travel is unsafe for them and others.

    3) On February 2, the CDC, certainly with the spread of the variants in mind, further clarified that travel is not advised, period. But if travel is necessary, a preflight test should be followed by a quarantine and exit test.

    4) The variant risk is real, and our Safe Travels program has let the B.1.1.7 variant in as two unrelated cases on Oahu have proven. To keep variants out, Britain just mandated a 10 day hotel monitored quarantine for all travelers, at their expense, from 33 countries. South Africa just halted their vaccine rollout over concerns it is not as effective as hoped against their variant. France is modifying their rollout for the same reasons.

    Yet proponents of HB1286 are ignoring these realities. They are not even acknowledging and discussing them.

    Last December, Kaua’i, after seeing a spike in cases – almost all traceable to travel, made the decision to screen more carefully. Kaua’i now has the lowest cases per capita in the US. Their local non-tourism dependent economy is recovering, their children can be in school and on the playing fields, and 70,000 people live mostly without fear and anxiety. Passage of this bill could end all that, as Maui has shown.

    Maui made the decision to remain in the Safe Travels program and watched their cases spike from 1% of the state’s cases to 18%. They essentially traded open schools and healthy children for tourist dollars. It was certainly a difficult decision. But is Maui better off? Are their children happier and their kūpuna safer?

    One certainly feels for the tourism dependent businesses on Kaua’i, but the citizens elected their mayor and he’s kept all but one of them (a well known airport shuttle bus driver) safe. Let Kaua’i decide what is best for their small island.

  14. The Big Kahuna February 18, 2021 1:42 pm Reply

    Finding balance is ideal, however disingenuous remarks from leaders or former leaders is like asking who’s fault is it we have traffic. The very same folks who have turned Kauai into a welfare state that are Ok turning once beautiful beaches into Kauai house less camps all advocate ruining generations of family businesses out. These leaders all echo the same message in a sound chamber, the same anti- tourist message for decades.

    The County has proven time after time that its policies often times get over ruled in Court. Millions of dollars have been wasted of tax payer funds had Kauai followed State Law or Federal Law.

    Decades of incompetent leadership has wasted funds that could have fixed many problems including after school programs, and funds to keep kids in school and off drugs. Money that could have allowed every kid in school a free tutors that many mainland kids take for granted, the same kids they will compete with for good jobs. Today kids can stay in Kauai, work form home and earn six figure salaries.

    Kauai needs a plan, to balance vaccinations of the Kapuna, police, fire, teachers and public workers, before we open. This should be completed by May. Those that don’t want vaccinations understand their options.

    Mayor its time to put your big boy pants on and lead Kauai into the next generation not back on the sugar plantation.

  15. Wahoo February 18, 2021 1:51 pm Reply

    Every resident of this island recognizes the hardship that our fellow residents who work at the large resorts are experiencing right now. If the grand resorts of Kauai want to do something to improve this situation and help themselves in the process, they should leverage their extensive, well-funded marketing resources to create solutions that truly are balanced. Rather than trying to rewrite the rules which keep all residents on Kauai safe and healthy, and which allow our local government to focus proactively on vaccination rather than reacting to high infection rates, find a way to work within the rules that is win-win. Join and market the resort bubble concept. Market yourselves as the second-island stop for visitors after they spend a couple days on another island. Find a way to use Kauai’s relatively free of COVID status to attract people on the mainland with COVID fatigue to stay longer. If the grand resorts of Kauai cannot find a way to make their beautiful grounds, pools, and facilities attractive to visitors within the confines of a medically warranted second test framework, then maybe they need to step back and rethink their approach and seek more balance. Many of the small businesses on Kauai, which don’t have the political influence to bulldoze their way through this in the way that the large resorts do, have pivoted their business approach in amazing ways. No question this takes work, but that’s what the big players in the hospitality industry should be doing if they really care about the people of Kauai.

    1. Kara Thrace February 18, 2021 5:29 pm Reply

      Also, can we explore the fact that multiple couples make island hopping the SOP for their honeymoons. Usually saving Kauai as a “best for last” scenario. 3 days on Oahu or Maui first isn’t exactly twisting anyone’s arm.

      I can’t count how many times that was the preamble to a conversation at work, before being furloughed from my hotel bartending position.

      Pre and post test. Or chill on another island before enjoying Kauai. Or wait until the CDC advocates travel in general.

  16. Wahoo February 18, 2021 2:29 pm Reply

    Many thanks to Kauai Representatives Nakamura and Tokioka for voting for what is right. Kauai Representative Dee Morikawa, on the other hand, is one of the quiet introducers of the HB1286. It’s probably no coincidence that the two mega resorts featured in this TGI article are in her district. Would love to hear Ms. Morikawa weigh in on why she thinks the local heath department and local government should be precluded from creating more stringent requirements on local health issues, other than that’s what her corporate financial backers in Koloa are asking her to do. I live in her district, and certainly she won’t be getting my vote in the next election.

  17. Be reasonable February 18, 2021 3:06 pm Reply

    To everyone who says “just wait a few months more — this is working!” I ask, for whom is it working? Saying we need to completely destroy our local economy rather than do what Oahu and the other neighbor islands have done is ridiculous. The state’s single-test program is actually working, in case you haven’t noticed! We have to balance risk and jobs. Plain and simple. Deny that, and you are living in a fantasy world. This is all about the amount of risk we can take on relative to its costs. And the costs have been huge. As the owners of a small business that has been decimated, we have lost our entire life savings, everything. We’ve paid our employees while not taking a dime for ourselves for almost a year. Our savings are gone, and we can’t do it anymore. We’ve been ruined and guess what? We can’t pay other people around the island now for the things we used to get from them. It’s not just businesses that rely for a lot of their income on tourists that are starting to get hit. Our lives have been destroyed, and our kids are doubly scarred from the massive disruption to school and their lives and the depression and stress we’re experiencing as we have watched everything we had disappear. But sure, say it’s working just fine because Covid cases are virtually non-existent. Don’t worry about the economic damage – that’s someone else’s problem. Small businesses and their employees have been pretty quiet until now, but that’s over. We’re fed up with the uncaring attitude. The Mayor’s office brushes off and doesn’t return calls from small business owners who have been impacted. You know who returned my call in less than a minute? Representative Morikawa’s office. At least someone cares about the people whose lives have been destroyed…

  18. Marie February 18, 2021 4:20 pm Reply

    People are managing just fine if they want to come to Kauai. Our percentage of occupancy is the same as all the other islands. This just smacks of a power grab for the Oahu controlled legislature to grab power away from the different islands.

  19. Doug February 18, 2021 4:25 pm Reply

    Maybe the mainland overlords of the Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort and the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i should have adapted and joined the resort bubble program like many of their counterparts instead of instead of sitting on their collective behinds and waiting. Apparently all 10 Resort Bubbles are seeing a steady increase in occupancy, and some are even projecting 100% occupancy next month! The train has left the station people, and you are not on it! If you were on it your amazing employees would be going back to work as time moves on, instead no one benefits from your inertia. Trying times call for thinking out of the box and saving your business/employees, as many small businesses here and on the mainland have done. I walked by the playground at Lydgate the other day to see every hotel bungalow there full with white tracking watches flashing in the sun, quite a change from a month ago. Get with the program instead of fighting it, you won’t make the barrel full of money you have been but you will be making some money and paying your employees to boot!

  20. Johnny February 19, 2021 10:12 am Reply

    If HB 1286 would make a statewide uniform travel policy, then why did the mayor of Kauai come out and say that Kauai wouldn’t be re-joining the safe travels program again until mid-late May??

    1. JL February 21, 2021 6:37 pm Reply

      If ALL of the Kapuna, the frontline workers, TSA, and more have access to the vaccine AND Safe Travels program participants must have negative test to avoid quarantine, why the heck won’t Kauai rejion? this is insane – by the time mid May rolls around many beaches will be occupied by the homeless, favorite establishments will be closed, crimes of opportunity will rise – and why is Polihale STILL closed. The bubble resorts are a ripoff and everyone knows it. Come on Mayor, do you job!

  21. Not a local friendly solution February 19, 2021 1:41 pm Reply

    Can’t wait to see how many locals have to leave because of the mayor’s policy. Taxes on locals will have to be raised to pay for the lost revenue of closing the island. Property taxes will increase which means house payments and rents will go up. That and the state having to generate more tax revenue will push more people to the mainland further increasing the income gap on the island. Great job Mr Mayor!!!!

  22. Vax Scene February 19, 2021 9:32 pm Reply

    There are lots of warnings about the dangers of the vaccines, just like prescription drugs are lethal, see their own TV Ads..

    The following is from the. Children’s Defense Fund:
    According to new data released today, as of Feb. 12, 15,923 adverse reactions to COVID vaccines, including 929 deaths, have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

    Caveat Emptor = Buyer Beware !

    Like the Merck Pharmaceutical company did and said.

    They pulled their vaccines off the market because of dangerous side effects, and instead they recommend it is safer to be infected by the actual Covid virus and develop your own more effective natural immunity and be Non-contagious, as well as automatically becoming part of Herd Immunity.

  23. Vax Scene February 19, 2021 9:50 pm Reply

    Edit correction…as to sources of info s to Deaths from the VACCINE for Covid.

    Robert F. Kennedy, son of RFK, and son of President JFK, HIS WEBSITE IS:


    1. Jamie Rainbow February 20, 2021 5:14 pm Reply

      Children’s Health Defense is an American 501c3 nonprofit advocacy organization,[1] known for its anti-vaccine activism. Much of the material put forth by the organization involves misinformation on vaccines and anti-vaccine propaganda. Do you have a more credible source.
      Possibly fake news.

  24. Cbagley February 20, 2021 11:40 am Reply

    Of course , many perspectives are presented. Here is another. My husband and I are due to come to Kaua‘i next week. We are property owners and fully VACCINATED. Where are the provisions for us?. We are supportive of pre testing. After doing that, we are expected to spend over $¹500 to stay in a ” luxury ” hotel until we get a neg COVID test. We also get to put on prison bracelets so they know our location. Our own condo has much more “luxury items” than the hotel. We are fully Vaccinated. It would be
    much safer to stay in our own condo.
    So much of what is going on is political. After 55 years in healthcare, it is pretty clear that politicians should stay out of healthcare and just let the DOH take the lead as far as rules and regulations so this power squabbling can stop. WE HV Had enough of it. REMEMBER WE ARE FULLY VACCINATED, property owners and you don’t hv a method that MEETS our situation. Provide for your people, much of which would mean go with the Safe Travels Program NOW!!!

    1. Doug February 20, 2021 7:45 pm Reply

      Fully vaccinated does not mean you can’t carry and pass the virus to others, the jury is still out on that. And I can see “fully vaccinated” people coming and not wearing masks as they do on the other islands because they think they don’t have to wear them. As of 4 days ago he CDC still recommends that you do not travel during the pandemic: “Travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.” You are fortunate that the Mayor has set up the bubble resort plan for you.

  25. Herk February 20, 2021 6:40 pm Reply

    People who are not housing and food secure will have a different perspective from those who are. If you are one who depends on tourism for housing and food security, you will of course be willing to risk more to provide for yourselves and your families. For those fortunate enough to be secure in housing and food, taking no risk makes sense. But I believe taking no risk will lead to a greater hardship for the many. Most people, living not only on Kauai, but in the country are not housing and food secure. The Safe Travels Program does not replace the common-sense strategies of washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing but is in addition to these measures. These common-sense strategies finally seem to be taking hold across the country resulting in a large decrease in Covid cases. The Safe Travels Program in Hawaii has shown the rest of the country what is possible with respect to reopening the economy. It is time for Kauai to join the rest of Hawaii in leading the country, and take some risk in doing so, for the sake of those who are not food and housing secure.

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