COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions MSU has received about the pandemic. You can also submit your own questions at the bottom of this page.
Last Updated: Jan. 22, 2021
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Wearing non-medical face masks or face coverings is required for all students, staff, faculty and visitors in all indoor spaces — including hallways. Masks are required in all enclosed or partially enclosed outdoor spaces, or in other outdoors spaces where social distancing cannot be observed. Masks are strongly encouraged outdoors even when social distancing is possible. Please read the MSU's Roadmap for Fall 2020 for full details.
The Gallatin City-County Health Department is the only agency comprehensively tracking the number of COVID-19 cases in the county. All MSU students, faculty and staff who are Gallatin County residents and who are tested are tracked in the county's numbers, which are reported every Friday on the last page of the health department's "Weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Reports, which can be found at healthygallatin.org/about-us/press-releases.
MSU does not have a separate number of cases that are affiliated with the campus; only the Gallatin City-County Health Department has access to and compiles that information.
MSU students do not undergo surveillance testing. This is due to a lack of testing capacity for asymptomatic individuals in Montana.
Under guidance from the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, MSU offers COVID-19 testing for students living in on campus who are asymptomatic, that is, who are not showing virus symptoms. This asymptomatic testing is offered by appointment. Please note, again, that this asymptomatic testing is only for on -campus residents.
Students who develop COVID-19 symptoms can seek testing at the Student Testing Center near Bobcat Stadium. There is no cost for testing at the Symptomatic Student Testing Center.
Symptomatic students can also seek testing from their own health care providers, and if they need medical services beyond a COVID-19 test, they can also make an appointment with University Health Partners.
The timing of vaccine distribution and priorities for dispensing doses are being determined by the federal and state governments. The university will communicate to the campus community about vaccine distribution as soon as that information is available.
Montana State University encourages students to obtain a COVID-19 before returning to campus, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
If the test result is positive, students should delay their return to campus, quarantining or isolating as directed by health care professionals.
If a student needs to delay their return to campus due to COVID-19, faculty and staff will work to provide remote coursework and online support until the student can return safely in person.
Follow the direction of your local county health department and your personal health care provider on when you can leave isolation or quarantine to travel to MSU. Stay home in quarantine or isolation until then.
Spring semester began Monday, Jan. 11, consisting of largely in-person instruction.
At the firection of the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, all campuses in the Montana University System will use their traditional spring break week for instruction so as to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as well as end the semester early.
Finals' week of spring semester 2021 will end on Friday, April 30.
Courses will be delivered in person, remotely and via a combination of those two modes.
Students can find information about how classes will be offered in the schedule of classes available in MyInfo. As the start of the semester nears, students can also check their Brightspace/D2L accounts for further detail from their instructors on how their individual class sections will operate.
Additional information about fall classes can be found on our Course Delivery page and in the president’s July 15 letter to the MSU community.
MSU has put into practice measures to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread while providing a high-quality, on-campus educational experience. Classroom seating will maintain proper social distancing. Students are expected to wear face masks or coverings and adhere to other common public health practices, such as hand hygiene and monitoring themselves for COVID-19 symptoms.
If you get sick, first of all contact a medical professional and see to your health. When it's practical, reach out to your instructors to let them know you are ill.
Students do not need to provide details or personal information other than to tell instructors that they have a medical issue and will miss class. The faculty are prepared for this eventuality and will work with students when they reach out.
When it comes time to return to class, no doctor's note or written excuse is needed. We simply ask that students be honest and clear throughout in their communications with faculty members.
Students should contact their adviser for assistance with class scheduling. If they do not know the name of their adviser, they can contact the staff at University Studies at 406-994-3532 or [email protected] for help.
While MSU is taking all the steps it can to reduce the risk of virus transmission this — including socially distanced classrooms, a mask requirement and a personal Clean 'Cat Kit — the risk will not be zero. Students with medical or immunity concerns should speak with their health care providers to determine the best course of action.
Please visit the Getting Started with Online Learning page published by MSU Academic Technology and Outreach. It has information about getting started with online learning, tools, tips and help with Brightspace.
The MSU Library is open to the public. A full and uppdated listing of library hours is available online.
Given the heavy reliance on teleconferencing and online/internet presence during the pandemic year, students need to have access to an appropriate device to join the remote portions of their classes, whether that is a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or other internet-connected device.
MSU has a program that allows personal purchases for students for Apple and Dell computers at an educational discount. As an alternative to purchasing, the MSU Library offers various devices, including laptops, for short-term checkout, and student computer labs will also be available.
A set of good quality headphones and a microphone are helpful when participating in virtual sessions -- loans of this equipment are not available due to sanitation reasons. A webcam is also recommended for an improved online classroom experience, whether it's built into your device or an external camera.
There are several options available, depending on where you are located.
Public libraries across the country offer internet access and often wireless networks. Another option is Eduroam (education roaming), a secure wireless network that is available to participating universities and institutions in the United States and abroad. Eduroam allows traveling MSU students, faculty, and staff to securely connect to the Internet at any institution that is an Eduroam member. MSU students who are near member institutions may be able to connect to the internet via wireless at those institutions.
The MSU Library also offers its Wi-Fi Hotspot Lending Program. The university has a limited number of Wi-Fi hotspots that can be checked out to high-need students on a medium- to long-term basis to let them access their course content. This program is operated by faculty referrals, and the availability of hot spots is not guaranteed. More information is online at https://guides.lib.montana.edu/hotspots.
The short answer is that there is no pre-defined number that would trigger changes.
Any decision about transitioning to fully or partially remote instruction would weigh many factors, including but not limited to the number of known cases; whether they are clustered and, if so, where; the capacities for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; and the local health care system’s capacities, such as available hospital beds and ventilators.
Decisions about changes in instruction would be made in consultation with the Gallatin City-County Health Department and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and in coordination with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.
Those decisions would not necessarily be limited to transitioning the entire university to remote instruction, either. The situation may warrant a limited action, such as moving individual courses or sections of courses to remote instruction, potentially for a set period of time and not the entire semester.
There are many rumors regarding COVID-19 going around, and this is one of them. To be clear, there are no plans to "close" the university or switch classes to remote delivery.
MSU's preparations for in-person classes have included a campus face mask requirement, strict social distancing in classrooms, enhanced cleaning procedures, the distribution of personal Clean 'Cat Kits to all students, faculty and staff, altered class schedules and much more. All of these efforts have been with the safety and health of our campus community as our foremost concern.
We also recognize that the risk of the virus on campus or anywhere, for that matter, will not be zero. And so our professors have made plans to be flexible with their courses. They will be ready to shift to online teaching, should that become needed, whether it's a single course changing format or all of them.
However, these changes are not something that can be predicted months ahead of time. These decisions will be made based on many factors, including but not limited to the number of known cases and the capacity of our local health care system. MSU will make all of these decisions in consultation with our campus health experts at University Health Partners, the Gallatin City-County Health Department, Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services and the state's Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.
Far-reaching decisions of this type will be communicated widely to students, parents and the campus community in multiple formats.
Tuition is decided by the Montana University System's governing body, the Board of Regents. The board has looked at the issue and at this time is not contemplating a tuition discount should a campus have to cease in-person instruction.
Read the full details of MSU's face covering requirement in the MSU Roadmap.
Instructions for putting on and removing masks are available on MSU’s COVID-19 website.
Upon request to a unit supervisor, MSU will provide one non-medical face mask to each employee who returns to campus. This single university-provided mask is intended to supplement an employee's own mask or face covering. Masks will be distributed through department and unit supervisors.
If you or a member of your household are experiencing a compromised immune system and are concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, contact your immediate supervisor. You may be required to provide a letter from your health care provider. If possible and appropriate for your work, arrangements may be made for you to be able to work remotely (telework). Your supervisor and you can work together to make necessary arrangements so that you may work remotely.
If you are unable to work remotely because your work does not align with telework, you will be eligible for State COVID-19 Leave for up to 14 calendar days and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave. After COVID-19 Leave balances are used, you can use accrued sick leave. You may also use accrued annual leave or compensatory time if you need to remain absent from work due to your personal health condition.
If you have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, you should contact your health care provider or your local health department. Notify your supervisor that you have taken this step. Employees may be required to remain under quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 even if they are not symptomatic.
If you are told by a health care provider or public health official that you should be under quarantine due to potential exposure, you should not report to work and will be eligible for State COVID-19 Leave for up to 14 calendar days and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave. Under these circumstances, you may be required to provide a letter from your health care provider or local health department indicating that you have completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period. You may also be required to provide medical documentation releasing you to full duty prior to returning to work.
If possible and appropriate for your work, you may also arrange to work remotely (telework). You may work with your supervisor to make necessary arrangements so that you may work remotely.
If you think you are developing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, you should contact your health care provider or local health department. Notify your supervisor that you have taken this step. If you are told by a health care provider or public health official that you should be under isolation due to COVID-19 illness, you should not report to work and will be eligible for State COVID-19 Leave for up to 30 calendar days. You may be eligible for an additional 10 days of Federal Leave. You may be required to provide a letter from your health care provider or local health department indicating that you have completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period. You may also be required to provide medical documentation releasing you to full duty prior to returning to work.
The Montana University System Health insurance plan will cover COVID-19 testing and will waive co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance for plan members when services are received from participating providers.
If you have a concern about an employee who appears to be sick, speak to your supervisor. Montana University System campus management, in consultation with the campus human resources office, will make appropriate decisions regarding whether the employee will report to work.
Employees who are determined by health professionals to be a close contact of an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 will be notified as part of the contact tracing process that a case has been confirmed and will be asked questions about their own health situation to determine the steps they need to take. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the identity and medical information of people with communicable diseases.
Please read the guidance published on this site on what you can and should do if you learn a faculty member, staff member or student has tested positive for COVID-19.
The option to work from home (telecommute) for employees who need to be absent from work due to COVID-19 may depend on several factors including, but not limited to: job function, essential status, operational requirements of the campus, and ability to access required technology. You should seek approval from your supervisor if this is an option for you. See additional information under the “Teleworking” section of the employee guidance page.
Please see detailed information under “Employee Leave Options” on the employee guidance page.
You may be entitled to use FMLA for absence related to COVID-19 if you have a qualifying event as defined by the Family and Medical Leave Act. You may also be eligible for up to 10 weeks of partially paid Federal Expanded FMLA Leave for childcare purposes. Your campus human resources staff can assist you with questions related to FMLA eligibility: HR Business Partners or Leave Coordinator.
If you have a delayed return from personal travel as a result of any state’s or country’s monitoring or management of COVID-19 or transportation disruptions associated with such monitoring or management, you should contact your supervisor. Montana University System employees may be eligible to use available accrued leave to cover the absence. Based on the situation in your workplace, you may be required to work remotely for up to 14 calendar days. If you are unable to work remotely and it is your supervisor’s decision to have you remain away from the work environment for 14 calendar days, you will be eligible for COVID-19 Leave.
You may be eligible for up to 14 calendar days of State COVID-19 Leave, and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave, to care for a member of your immediate family who is quarantined or is ill as a result of COVID-19. You may be required to provide a letter from your healthcare provider or local health department indicating that your immediate family member has completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period.
Montana University System employees who need to be absent for more time than these leaves cover may use available leave as outlined in the annual, compensatory time, and sick-leave policies.
If you need to stay home to care for a child because of a school closure you may be eligible to work remotely (telework). You may work with your supervisor to make necessary arrangements so that you may work remotely.
If you are required to stay home due to closure of a school, childcare, or eldercare facility in connection with the monitoring or management of the coronavirus or as a result of a declared public health emergency by the Governor and you are not eligible to work remotely or are unable to telework because your child needs full-time care, you are eligible for up to 80 hours of State COVID-19 Leave. This leave can be taken intermittently and is available effective March 16, 2020; this leave will not deduct from accrued leave balances. After having used 80 hours of State COVID-19 Leave, you may be eligible for an additional 10 days of Federal Leave or Expanded FMLA Leave for childcare purposes. Thereafter, you may use accrued annual (vacation), compensatory (comp) time, or sick leave.
Staff and faculty should reach out, by phone, to their own health care providers. (Student employees have the option of making an appointment at University Health Partners on campus.) They should make an appointment to be seen or tested and then follow the directions of their medical providers.
MSU emphasizes that employees should not come to work or to campus if they are feeling ill or even just a little “off.” You are encouraged to perform a self-check each morning, checking to see if you exhibit any of the symptoms of COVID-19 and then make a decision about coming to work. The CDC Self-Checker can help you make decisions and seek appropriate care.
Yes, unless they have been approved for a contract release or an exemption.
Students should consult with their advisors about course planning. An exemption to the live-on requirement can be requested via the Housing Portal. Students who are contracted with Residence Life and wish to do all online courses in the fall semester and not relocate to campus, will need to provide documentation of this plan in their contract release application. This is not an automatic process; a committee will review the contract release application. If approved, the Residence Life contract will be canceled. For more information on housing contracts and the contract release process, visit the Residence Life website.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, Residence Life visitation policies have been modified. There will be no guests allowed in the residence hall communities, and students may not have overnight guests.
The Guests and Visitation policy will be continually evaluated. Please see the Residence Hall Handbook for additional information.
Helping residents feel connected to the greater residential community is a priority for Residence Life, while maintaining COVID-19 precautions.
Staff members will host a combination of virtual programming and outdoor events (weather permitting), virtual resident advisor check-ins and floor meetings, virtual resident director meet and greets, and “grab and go” programing materials.
Residence Life is also working with campus partners to create virtual content that can be delivered as online hall programming. When possible we will have events in-person while maintaining safe physical distancing practices. Student and staff safety is our highest concern.
- Posters and digital boards throughout the residence halls display information about precautions like physical distancing, hand hygiene and face mask requirements.
- Residence Life hosts regular community meetings to provide updates on any changes and/or recommendations for maintaining our healthy communities.
- Proper hygiene protocol is posted in each shared restroom.
- Students are invited to participate in community hall councils to discuss trends and community support for healthy living.
Residence hall gatherings, events, and programs will be limited per current MSU, state and county restrictions. Additionally:
- Furniture in hall lounges, meeting rooms, and amenity spaces has been modified or removed to allow for appropriate distancing
- Lounges and meeting rooms that cannot accommodate physical distancing are closed.
- Residential programs and services have been revised to support no-contact delivery or appropriate physical distancing in queues.
- Maximum occupancy signs are posted around the residence halls establishing a limit for the number of people allowed in common spaces at the same time.
- The Residence Hall handbook identifies maximum student room occupancy and will be continually updated as policies are evaluated.
Failure to follow posted and communicated directives designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 will result in disciplinary action.
Roommates sharing a room or apartment, are considered a "family unit," similar to a private residence. While in their room or apartments, roommates (solo or together) do not need to wear face coverings or make in-room modifications to promote physical distancing. Residents are expected to put on a mask before leaving their room or apartment.
Failure to adhere to the university's health and safety guidelines could result in disciplinary action as applicable under the university's existing policies and procedures for faculty, staff and students.
Approved visitors who fail to follow these directives may be removed immediately and will be restricted from visiting any residence hall in the future.
Residence Life custodial staff clean building public areas daily, including shared restrooms, using EPA-registered disinfectants.
- High-touch areas and community restrooms in all buildings are disinfected multiple times per day.
- Units with a shared bathroom (Residence Life Apartments, Headwaters Complex, Semi-Suites, Quads, etc.) will have an assigned day and time for a member of the custodial team to enter and clean the shared bathroom.
- Appropriate cleaning protocols are in place to respond to a positive COVID-19 case
- All entries to student residence, dining and amenity spaces will have continually replenished hand sanitizer dispensers
Residence Life is evaluating all services in the residence halls that could be used by residents, including public areas, computer kiosks, lounges, etc., to ensure that proper procedures and protocols can be followed. All amenities that can be safely used by residents will be available, and an updated list will be provided on the Residence Life website when decisions are made.
The following common areas may have restricted access or be shutdown entirely as deemed necessary to limit physical contact or exposure in those spaces including: Floor lounge, residence hall exercise rooms, music practice rooms, movie rooms.
Residence Life has implemented the following safety guidelines and procedures in all of our apartment and suite-style communities.
- Face masks are required in all interior public spaces (outside of the assigned unit) and outside when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Housing Facilities will continue rigorous cleaning protocols to disinfect public spaces and other high-touch areas.
- Hand sanitizer will be available in the lobbies of the Headwaters communities.
- Furniture in public spaces will be limited and configured in accordance with physical distancing guidelines.
- Community gatherings and programs will be planned in accordance with the state and local guidelines.
These questions are specific to quarantine and isolation housing for MSU students living on campus. See this page for general questions about quarantine and isolation.
The university has spaces available on campus for quarantine and isolation. These units are available only for students who live in our residence halls. Students who are identified as close contacts of people with COVID-19 through the contact tracing process or who are awaiting their own test results would be placed into quarantine housing apart from other students. Residents who have a confirmed case of COVID-19 would be housed in isolation, potentially sharing a suite with others who have confirmed cases of the virus.
Residence hall staff will check in regularly so that students remain connected to campus life and resources. Students have access to Residence Life staff at all times via a 24-hour service desk. If a student is in public health-ordered quarantine (10 days) or isolation (10 days), the Gallatin City-County Health Department will check in with students daily via an automated system called Sara Alert, and the student can request an in-person call back. Students are also offered support from mental health professionals at University Health Partners and can contact UHP medical services for advice should their symptoms worsen.
If it is deemed necessary by a provider or should there be an emergency, students would be taken to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital for care.
Additional information about Q/I housing is available from MSU Residence Life.
Going home to quarantine or isolate may be an option for you. Students should call 406-282-4025 for more information.
There are two levels of response for limiting the spread of the virus. The first is quarantine, which is for those awaiting the results of testing or who develop further signs of illness during the virus’ incubation period. The second level is isolation, which is for an individual who tests positive for the virus. These two levels follow CDC guidelines and definitions.
There will be circumstances where a roommate will be required to quarantine as well. Residence Life has separate facilities designated for quarantine. A resident in quarantine will have their own space, access to a bathroom and support from Residence Life staff. They will be required to shelter in place for the duration of their quarantine so as not to risk spreading the virus. Food will be delivered to their unit from Culinary Services. They will be expected to address their classroom assignments online and coordinate with their professors any missed work or information. They can have no visitors while in quarantine.
Should an individual test positive, they would be placed in isolation, which may mean sharing a room or suite with others who have the virus, for the duration of their illness. Again, they cannot have visitors while in isolation.
University Health Partners is available for medical advice, intermittent or ongoing counseling, and student case management as needed.
The student will be provided with a 24-hour phone number to reach housing staff for immediate assistance (while practicing appropriate distancing) and also could call 911 during an emergency.
The Gallatin City-County Health Department will check in with students daily via an automated system called Sara Alert, and the student can request an in-person call back.
We rely on students to be good citizens of Montana State and Gallatin County. If a student is ordered by Gallatin City-County Health Department to stay in quarantine or isolation, then Gallatin County has the option to take necessary steps to legally enforce the order.
If you are notified that you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, quarantine will be 10 days from your last known exposure, provided you remain without symptoms for those 10 days. According to the CDC, that is the length of time the virus can take to show symptoms in an infected person, and during that period, a person can spread the virus to others. That’s why quarantine is important.
Close contacts can be directed to quarantine, even if they are not showing symptoms of the virus. Please note that, if you are a close contact and receive a negative test result, you still must quarantine for the full 10 days. That is because it’s possible to have the virus but for it to be too early for the test to detect it. Meanwhile, you could be contagious.
On-campus resident students who entered quarantine only because they are awaiting a COVID-19 test result (and who are not close contacts of someone with the virus) will be quarantined only until they receive a negative test result, which typically takes 24-72 hours.
On-campus resident students need to contact their RA or their hall’s front desk BEFORE they go to get tested or as soon as they are directed to quarantine by a health professional. They will then be guided on the process for checking in to quarantine housing. Off-campus resident students should return to their homes and follow the direction of their health care provider and the Gallatin City-County Health Department.
According to the CDC, a person confirmed to have COVID-19 can generally end isolation if all the following criteria are met:
- It has been at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, or you have been asymptomatic 10 days since you tested positive.
- In the last 24 hours of your quarantine (day 10), you have no fever during those 24 hours — without the use of fever-reducing medication.
- Your COVID-19 symptoms are improving – they don’t need to have entirely disappeared, but they must be better than when you first became ill.
Other factors can be involved in the decision to end isolation. You should follow the direction of your health care provider.
You can check out of quarantine and isolation housing on the MSU campus when you have received authorization from the Gallatin City-County Health Department or University Health Partners. If you believe you have authorization to leave Q/I housing, please call 406-282-4025 before you leave your quarantine or isolation unit.
Not necessarily. Testing capacity in the state is limited and people with symptoms are typically given priority. It is possible that a student could be a close contact of another person with COVID-19 and be directed to quarantine but not show symptoms and, hence, not be tested.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to test someone for COVID-19 is made by health care providers. Students showing symptoms of the virus can seek testing at the Symptomatic Student Testing Center near Bobcat Stadium or at University Health Partners.
Usually not. If a student was directed to quarantine, it is entirely possible that they are not infected and that they will pass the entire 10-day quarantine without developing symptoms. In that case, once the Gallatin City-County Health Department and the student have notified Residence Life, that student would be able to check out.
In addition, if a student is isolated for a positive test, current CDC recommendations are to use the “10-day” rule and not repeat testing except for rare circumstances (persistent fever or symptoms, an immunocompromised individual, etc.). In those circumstances, the Gallatin City-County Health Department will work with UHP Medical Services to decide if an individual should be retested before ending isolation.
All university-sponsored and -affiliated international travel for all students, faculty and staff is suspended through April 30, 2021.
In April, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive for all travelers arriving in Montana from another state or country for non-work related purposes to self-quarantine for 14 days. That directive expired on June 1, 2020; the 14-day quarantine for all travelers arriving in Montana is no longer in place.
For all students, faculty and staff planning personal international travel, the university urges caution. Travel restrictions and quarantine requirements can change daily. The best, most up-to-date information about travel is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Information for Travel website.
If you choose to travel and return from a country with a recommended self-quarantine, please do not return to campus, either to the residence halls, classes, offices, fitness center or any other area. Travelers should self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning home from international travel, rather than coming to campus. Please follow the CDC's guidance on self-quarantine.
MSU is hosting a limited number of in-person visits. To minimize the risk of COVID-19 virus transmission, space is limited. Those interested in a tour should fill out the online form, preferrably at least two weeks in advance to ensure our Admissions office can make the necessary arrangements. Learn about all MSU visit opportunities.
All who come to campus should pay close attention to signs indicating pedestrian traffic flow in different areas and rooms. MSU has established these directions to help minimize face-to-face contact and promote social distancing, hence reducing the opportunities for the virus to spread.
MSU has also audited all classrooms on campus to determine their capacity while respecting social distancing. These audits produced room layout and capacity diagrams, which will be posted in each room. More information about this process is available from University Services.
All large classrooms with a capacity of 50 or more have an entry/exit diagram which outlines the best way to enter and exit the room.
The Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center is open with COVID-19 mitigation procedures and safety adaptations in place, including physical distancing and frequent cleaning and sanitation throughout the day.
More details about the fitness center's schedule and plans are available at http://www.montana.edu/getfit/.
If you have questions about MSU’s response to COVID-19 that are not answered on this page or elsewhere on this site, please submit them through this form. Please note, that we’re not in a position to answer scientific questions about the virus. Please visit the Centers for Disease Control for those questions.
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