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Novel CORONAVIRUS Response

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please see the Human Resources memo regarding Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19) issued by Gov. Whitmer on March 23.

Michigan State University continues to closely monitor the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. During this unprecedented public health situation, it is vital that we find the most effective ways to support teaching and learning, while also safeguarding and promoting the safety of students, faculty, and staff. Learn more about MSU's response here. 

The following is a list of frequently asked questions employees and supervisors/managers may have during this situation. This list will continue to be supplemented and modified.

Work-Related Frequently Asked Questions

Last Modified: April 2, 2020

Use these links to jump to a specific section:

Staffing (All University employees including Faculty, Executive Management, Academic Staff, Support Staff, Graduate Assistants, Temporary & On-Call employees)

The University is not closed; our operations continue. The order addressed the need for the people of Michigan “to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible” due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. The University has established that employees should be working remotely whenever possible. Employees who are working at home should continue to do so, in accordance with direction from their supervisor and managers. They should also comply with the Executive Order. No one should come to work who is ill.

Additionally, and pursuant to the Executive Order, the University is requiring all employees who are NOT necessary to (a) sustain or protect life, or (b) conduct minimum basic operations to stay at home rather than physically reporting into work at their worksites.

Continue to check the site remote.msu.edu/working for updates.

Determining which employees are “necessary” will depend on the work of the unit. Each unit will need to determine this. Examples of activities needed to sustain or protect life include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing law enforcement/first responder protection to the MSU community;
  • Providing necessary medical care to patients;
  • Keeping medical offices that need to continue treating people open;
  • Keeping pharmacies that need to deliver medications open;
  • Classroom and laboratory instruction for remote learning;
  • Approved work related to critical research as approved by the University;
  • Continuing to care for animals in research and farm settings;
  • Continuing to provide adequate housing and food service to those who are unable to leave campus;
  • Critical infrastructure workers. (The executive order referenced the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s March 19, 2020 guidance pertaining to critical infrastructure workers.)
  • Employees who perform operations necessary to enable transactions that support critical infrastructure works may also be deemed necessary employees.

Units are required to inform these employees of this designation in writing by the end of the day on Tues., March 31 (11:59 p.m.). The written designation is required even if you have already notified the employee verbally. If you have already given the necessary employee written notification, you do not need to provide the employee with any additional designation. A templated notification letter is available for your use here.

Units will maintain the lists of necessary employees. Neither the lists of necessary employees, nor the written notifications need to be sent to MSU HR. To assist you in maintaining the lists, please use this template to aid you in tracking employees designated as necessary.

Please refer to the HR guidelines regarding the Governor’s Executive Order here.

No, the authority to initiate modified operations under the policy rests solely with the President and/or an authorized designee. To date, the President has not initiated action under that policy. View the Modified Operations Policy and Procedure here.

No, under the Governor's Executive Order, only staff that are required to sustain or protect life or conduct minimum basic operations are necessary in-person. If business can be done remotely, it must be. Telephone calls should be transferred with someone assigned to answer those calls during normal business hours. Units should place appropriate notices on entrances, indicating that the office is closed to physical traffic, but providing contact information.

No, given the Governor's Executive Order, employees who have been approved to work remotely must not come in to work.

Yes, staff that are required to sustain or protect life or conduct minimum basic operations may be required to report to work. No one should come to work who is ill.

Yes, employees should be sent home if they are sick.

No, it is important to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of information about illness. Local health authorities will be responsible for any investigation to assess potential risk of exposure associated with a suspected case of COVID-19 and will contact those who may have been exposed.

The MSU WorkLife office does provide emergency dependent care support to MSU faculty and academic, staff and students. Please visit the MSU Worklife Office for additional, up-to-date information as circumstances evolve. Availability may be limited, and dependent upon providers being open for business. In addition, again, we encourage flexibility on the part of administrators/supervisors about telecommuting.

Under Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order issued on March 23, 2020, the University is requiring all employees who are not necessary to (a) sustain or protect life, or (b) conduct minimum basic operations to stay at home, rather than physically reporting to work at their worksites. Employees designated as “necessary” must continue to report to their place of work. Units are required to inform these employees of this designation as soon as possible.

Determining which employees are “necessary” will depend on the work of the unit. Each unit will need to determine this. Please review the guidance memorandum provided by Senior Vice President Steve Hsu on March 23 as MSU has limited access to research laboratories: only essential research-related operations can continue. Researchers must suspend non-essential research activities conducted on-campus or at remote MSU sites across the state. Office of the Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation has developed a list of minimum basic operations for research, which can be accessed in the guidance memorandum

Yes, employees may be required to work outside of their job classification or department as deemed necessary during this time. The college/department for which work is performed is responsible for compensation at the individual’s regular base rate for their original classification/appointment. Support staff represented by unions will be compensated in accordance with the terms of their collective bargaining agreement or existing practices.

Student Employees (excluding Graduate Assistants, Teaching Assistants, Teaching Exempt)

Students have been strongly encouraged to leave campus and return to their permanent addresses as a result of the university's suspension of face-to-face classroom instructions. Failure to work during this period  will not be considered adequate grounds for termination, provided the student has appropriately communicated their intent to leave campus to their supervisor before a work absence.

No, only employees whose work is necessary to sustain or protect life or conduct minimum basic operations, as identified by the Governor’s Executive Order, can be required to work in-person. Generally, student employees do not hold such positions.

Yes, we encourage units to seek out creative opportunities for students to work remotely.

If unit leadership determines that allowing (but not requiring) student employees to work up to 40 hours per week is necessary to sustain operations, this is allowable until further notice. Such work should be done remotely. Students will not be terminated for working hours in excess of the usual academic year 29-hour per week limit. For students with visas, units must continue to limit students to working no more than 20 hours per week across all student employment positions (as is the current rule).

Compensation and Benefits

The chart below summarizes the compensation the University has authorized for non-academic support staff in the following categories, effective March 24, 2020:

Type of Employee Work Location Compensation
Employees who ARE “necessary employees” who must physically report to their place of work under the Executive Order. Must report to designated work location
  • Employees will receive their regular base pay.
  • Hours worked count toward overtime compensation as applicable.
Employees who may work remotely Perform work at a remote location that complies with the Executive Order
  • Employees will receive their regular base pay.
  • Hours worked count toward overtime compensation as applicable.
Employees who are not “necessary employees” under the Executive Order AND who cannot work remotely. Should not work.
  • These employees may use any of their unused accrued time (sick, personal, or vacation).
  • Employees may be eligible for federal programs that commence on April 2, 2020 which will provide additional paid leave.
  • Employees, other than on-call and temporary employees, who lack sufficient unused accrued time to continue paid status through April 1,2020 shall be granted up to an additional 56 hours to continue their normal base pay (prorated for part-time employees) through April 1, 2020.  On-call and temporary employees are not eligible for the additional 56 hours.

The chart below summarizes the compensation the University has authorized for salaried faculty, academic staff and executive managers in the following categories, effective March 24, 2020:

Type of Employee Work Location Compensation
Employees who ARE “necessary employees” who must physically report to their place of work under the Executive Order. Must report to work
  • Employees will receive their regular base pay.
Employees who may work remotely Perform work at a remote location that complies with the Executive Order
  • Employees will receive their regular base pay.
Employees who are not “necessary employees” under the Executive Order AND who cannot work remotely. Should not work.
  • In general, there should be very few faculty and academic staff in this category. Please contact your dean’s office or Academic Human Resources to discuss options.
Yes, there are a number of benefit resources available to those enrolled in an MSU health plan and their eligible dependents. This includes virtual visits with your physician, telemedicine, and prescription resources. Visit the Coronavirus: MSU Benefit Resources webpage to learn more.

Effective March 15, 2020 through April 1, 2020, the University will allow an employee to use up to 80 hours of sick time against future sick time accruals if an employee has exhausted their sick time and their vacation time is insufficient to cover their absence. This will be permitted during the time the University restricts face-to-face instruction. The 80-hour figure will be adjusted on a pro-rata basis based on the employee’s employment percentage. This will be administered by paying the employee as if they were working when they are out and then charging their sick leave as it is accrued in the future. This will also have to be administered by the units as a manual process and care will have to be taken not to interfere with an hourly employee’s right to overtime. 

The up to 80 hours of sick time against future sick accruals may also be used if an employee is serving as a caregiver for a family member who is sick.

It is important to note that an employee may only use these hours through April 1, 2020, at which time they expire1. Effective April 1, 2020, the employee would need to qualify for hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA).

1The 80 hours of borrowed sick leave does not expire for employees that are exempted from EPSL and EFMLA coverage:
  • MSU Police Department staff
  • MSU Health Team staff and providers
  • Student Health & Wellness staff
  • Office of the University Physician staff
  • CVM critical infrastructure staff in the veterinary medical center and veterinary diagnostic laboratory

The restrictions on the hours of sick time that can be used for family sick leave will be removed for the duration of the time the University restricts face-to-face instruction.

The up to 80 hours of sick time against future sick accruals may also be used if an employee is serving as a caregiver for a family member who is sick.

Employees will be allowed to use vacation, personal and/or sick time for this purpose during the period of the Governor's mandated K-12 school closure. Employees would still be required to inform their supervisors of their absence.

The up to 80 hours is additional sick time borrowed against future sick accruals for an employee who (a) becomes ill; (b) is ordered to isolate themselves or is otherwise prohibited from work due to medical instructions; and (c) has insufficient personal, sick, and/or vacation accruals. This time also may be borrowed to care for a sick family member when there are insufficient accruals.

The up to 56 hours of additional paid leave can only be used if an employee is (a) not a “necessary employee” under the Governor’s Executive Order; (b) cannot work remotely; and (c) has exhausted all other accrued time.

It is possible that an employee could receive both the 80 hours and a portion of the 56 hours. Someone who is not a necessary employee and cannot work remotely and qualifies for the 80 hours (by being ill, having been ordered to self-isolate or been prohibited from work by medical instructions) would get the 80 extra hours against future accruals. If that 80 hours was exhausted, such a person could then get up to 56 hours to maintain paid status until April 2. Most likely they would only need a day or two of the 56 hours.

Please note both the 80 hours of additional borrowed sick time and the 56 hours of additional paid leave can only be used through April 1, 2020, at which time they expire1. Effective April 1, 2020, the employee would need to qualify for hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA).

1
The 80 hours of borrowed sick leave does not expire for employees that are exempted from EPSL and EFMLA coverage:
  • MSU Police Department staff
  • MSU Health Team staff and providers
  • Student Health & Wellness staff
  • Office of the University Physician staff
  • CVM critical infrastructure staff in the veterinary medical center and veterinary diagnostic laboratory

Workers’ compensation is a system established by state law that provides wage replacement, medical, and rehabilitation benefits to workers who are injured on the job. Because it is extremely difficult to trace the origin of a communicable disease, an illness is usually not covered.

FMLA requires an employee to have a serious health condition, which is considered an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. While many cases of COVID-19 will not meet this definition, there may be cases that are serious enough to, and therefore would qualify for FMLA.

If an employee is granted FMLA leave, the FMLA leave runs concurrent with existing paid/unpaid leaves of absence. Health, prescription, and dental benefits will continue with the normal University contribution for the duration of the FMLA leave, even if the employee’s paid accruals have been exhausted. See MSU’s FMLA and PMLA policies.

The PMLA Policy (which applies ONLY to non-union temporary employees) permits non-union temporary employees to take their existing accrual of PMLA time:

  • For closure of the employee's primary workplace by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
  • For the employee's need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
  • For the employee’s time off if it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider that the presence of the employee or employee’s family member in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the eligible employee's or family member's exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the eligible employee or family member has actually contracted the communicable disease.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Employees may apply for EFMLA or EPSL if they are unable to work or telework and meet the eligibility criteria under EPSL or EFMLA.

  • EFMLA: Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) expands the FMLA temporarily (until December 31, 2020) to provide 12 weeks of leave to care for of a minor child due to closing of school or daycare or unavailability of daycare because of COVID-19. The first two weeks of EFMLA leave are unpaid (but may be paid by the EPSL), while weeks 3-12 are paid with certain caps. All pay is at a rate of 2/3 an employee’s regular rate of pay.
  • EPSL: Creates the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSL) which provides for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave, with caps, to take care of oneself or another individual due to quarantine, COVID-19 or similar symptoms or to take care of a minor child due to closing of school or daycare because of COVID-19. Pay is at full or 2/3 rate, depending on which of the six qualifying reasons an employee is taking EPSL.

Additional information on eligibility, key features, pay, and other important aspects of both the  EFMLA and EPSL leave programs is available here.

HR Processes

Employees are expected to report their absences and to identify the reason for the absence. Supervisors, while generally maintaining existing attendance policies and guidelines, are expected to show flexibility to accommodate employee issues.
Yes, supervisors may ask employees the reason for their absence. A supervisor may ask an employee if they are experiencing fever and respiratory symptoms, but the supervisor must maintain all information about employee illnesses as a confidential medical record.
The University does not provide a sick leave balance for faculty and academic staff. The general expectation for situations which may require faculty and academic staff to take time off for illness is that unit administrators extend professional courtesy and flexibility for employees under these circumstances and expect that arrangements are made for the work to be done. If, however, the time off interferes with the employee being able to fulfill their responsibilities, then the unit administrator and employee must have a conversation to discuss and evaluate the situation and other alternatives.

No, at this time, all central deadlines for hiring processes remain unchanged. 

Yes, on-site interactions must be minimized. The use of video conferencing technology (i.e. Zoom) to conduct interviews is strongly encouraged. To ensure consistency in the interview process and avoid the perception of one candidate having an unfair advantage, ideally all interviews should be conducted in the same manner (e.g. all virtual).

No, in-person group orientations for support staff have been canceled until further notice. HR staff is reaching out to support staff new hires and covering orientation content with them individually.

On March 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will exercise discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with the Form I-9. Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. MSU verifiers still must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2.

Units are to follow the steps below when using this temporary provision:

  • Complete Section 2 of the I-9 by either electronic copies of the document(s) or by observing the employee’s documents via video communication
  • Copies of the documents must also be obtained and attached to the I-9 in the I-9 system (even if they were observed via video link).
  • Units must still complete Section 2 in Equifax on time as they normally would.
  • Units must enter a comment on the employee’s electronic I-9
    • Comment: In the Short Description, it must read exactly “COVID-19” and in the comment details “Physical inspection delay due to COVID-19”
  • Units are responsible for keeping track of employees whose Form I-9s are completed using the temporary provision and are responsible for ensuring the documents are physically inspected in-person once normal operations resume.

Once normal operations resume, verifiers need to:

  • Physically inspect the employee’s original document(s) within three days after operations resume
  • Units must again enter another comment on the employee’s electronic I-9
    • Comment 2: Short Description “Documents Physically Examined” and in the comment details “Documents physically examined MM/DD/YYYY.

The Section 3 reverification of work authorization documents are acceptable via electronic inspection during the temporary provision period as well. MSU verifiers would need to follow the same guidelines to follow-up and inspect the original document (s) when normal business operations resume.

For questions regarding the completion of I-9s using the temporary provision authorized by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, please email  HR.I9Admin@hr.msu.edu.

Faculty & Academic Staff Hiring Modifications (including Executive Management)

For purposes of faculty and academic staff positions, relevant vice presidents are defined as the vice president for which your unit reports.

Most academic units, except the human health colleges, report to the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs (T. Sullivan). The Colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing, and Osteopathic Medicine report to the Executive Vice President for Health Sciences (N. Beauchamp).  Some academic support units report to the Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation (S. Hsu).

Given the numerous scenarios of where the unit may be in the hiring process, a chart has been developed and is available here. The chart outlines the different stages of the hiring process as well as the anticipated start date, and indicates whether approval is needed from the relevant vice president.

In general:

  • Any open position that has not yet been posted on the HR website or submitted in EBS workflow as of March 27, 2020 requires approval from the relevant vice president before proceeding.
  • Any open position for which there is an anticipated start date prior to fall 2020, and for which an offer has not yet been accepted, requires approval from the relevant vice president before proceeding.

In those cases where vice president approval is needed, the form “Hiring Approval Form for Posting and Hiring at MSU” must be completed and appropriate signatures must be obtained before the unit can proceed further with the hiring process. (Use Internet Explorer to view the form, and download and save to complete.) Note that units may require the form be signed off by their dean or unit administrator first before it is submitted to the relevant vice president.

The completed form with the appropriate signatures must be attached to the academic position request, the academic position exception request form or hiring form as noted in the hiring chart.

All offers of employment which were made and accepted prior to March 27, 2020 will be honored. However, we recommend that units assess whether it is necessary to delay the employment start date due to the statewide suspension of in-person operations as well as consideration of the impact to the onboarding process. The University wants its new employees to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to be successful in their role and appropriate onboarding may be significantly disrupted during this time. We strongly encourage frequent communication with the new hire of updates regarding MSU’s operational status.

No. Approval is not necessary for contract renewals. However, it is still advisable to consult with senior leadership.

No, approval is not necessary for AY summer school appointments. However, it is still advisable to consult with senior leadership.

No, approval is not necessary for unpaid positions such as no pay, clinical or adjunct appointments.

Yes. The completed form with the appropriate signatures must be attached to relevant HR form (i.e., hire, rehire, change position, additional assignment) when the form is submitted into workflow.

For positions that require face-to-face interaction, it may be appropriate to consider delaying the employment start date to after April 14 providing that the statewide suspension of in-person operations is lifted. The University wants its new employees to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to be successful in their role and appropriate onboarding may be significantly disrupted during this time. We strongly encourage frequent communication with the new hire of updates regarding MSU’s operational status.

If the start date needs to change, then the hiring form and required documents already in process will be returned to the unit to modify to accommodate the change in start date.

The same guidance applies regardless of funding source. All new positions will require review and approval by the relevant vice president.

Support Staff Hiring Modifications (including Temporary, On-Call, Student and Graduate Assistant Employees)

Yes approval is required. Any open position where an offer has not been made to or accepted by a candidate as of March 27, 2020 requires approval from the relevant vice president before proceeding.

No, all offers of employment which were made and accepted prior to March 27, 2020 will be honored. However, we recommend that units assess whether it is necessary to delay the employment start date due to the statewide suspension of in-person operations as well as consideration of the impact to the onboarding process. The University wants its new employees to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to be successful in their role and appropriate onboarding may be significantly disrupted during this time. We strongly encourage frequent communication with the new hire of updates regarding MSU’s operational status.

Yes, approval is required for all support staff positions regardless of start date.

Units are asked to keep their head count for these positions consistent at this time. Hiring new graduate assistants to replace departing ones is acceptable, but units should not increase headcount over current levels without seeking permission from the unit’s appropriate vice president or provost. Approval in these circumstances requires completion of the Hiring Approval Form. In addition, hiring for any of these positions that are grant funded will be monitored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI).  OVPRI will provide guidance on that process. HR will not monitor these processes , nor will it monitor headcount.
No, approval is not required for these positions.  Units may institute additional unit specific guidelines for these groups.

In those cases where vice president approval is needed, the form “Hiring Approval Form for Posting and Hiring at MSU” must be completed and the appropriate signature must be obtained before the unit can proceed further with the hiring process. (Use Internet Explorer to view the form, and download and save to complete.) The completed form with the appropriate signature must be attached to the Support Staff Position Request as noted in the hiring chart here. If the posting has already been posted or is in EBS workflow please email the approval form to AVPHR.TMAmail@campusad.msu.edu.

No, reclassifications do not require vice president approval. However, we recommend that units assess whether it is necessary to reclass a position due to the statewide suspension of in-person operations.

Professional Development - Remote Opportunities

Challenging times like this call for creativity.  Are there materials that require reading and review that can be done remotely?  As a professional development assignment, is there a job-related book that can be read or an online course that can be taken?  It is hard to imagine that there is any job at MSU for which there is not some personal professional development work that could be done remotely and could increase one’s capacity or improve one’s performance when we return to more normal times. 

All benefits eligible employees have access to free online learning in elevateU. This tool can assist and support employees with boosting skills in a wide variety of areas. Consider goals set for the year, skills needed for upcoming projects or taking a deeper dive into Excel or Access. Topics cover a broad range and include productivity tools (desktop), leadership development, project management, IT professional skills, emotional intelligence, wellness, and more. elevateU also has thousands of e-books and audio books available that can be searched by title or author.

Yes, those with a professional certification may be able to get CE credits by taking courses through elevateU. From the home page, click on Certification Resources in the left sidebar, then Certification Information. If you don’t see your certification, contact the credentialing board for your certification to ask about using elevateU resources for CE credits. This is an opportunity to get CE credits without spending any money or traveling.

Once the team is up and running remotely and a routine is established, supervisors might consider assigning a common experience to work on as a group. Teams can watch a video together and discuss key points. Each team member could choose a topic to explore and then “teach back” to the rest of the team.

Leading by example can ease the anxiousness employees can experience. You have the power to creating space to facilitate the connectedness you may be missing. Other ideas include creating a virtual book club using the same book with a weekly discussion segment. We’d recommend selecting resources that will align with team or unit goals, or other common interest like “improve communication”.

Yes, individual employees should feel encouraged to pursue professional development. Consider areas that align with performance goals or new skills needed for upcoming projects or initiatives. Certificates of completion are available for those who complete a course and pass the exam at 75% or better. Taking a class, reading up on areas of professional expertise isn’t just “busy work”. We know that creativity and innovation are sparked by learning something new.

Log into EBS > My Career & Training > elevateU or directly at  https://elevateu.skillport.com. We’ve updated the landing page and a good place to start exploring is by clicking the MSU Highlighted Programs tab on the left sidebar. 

Unemployment Information

It is important to understand that the State of Michigan determines who is, and who is not eligible for unemployment. In general, you may be eligible for unemployment if you have experienced a loss of employment or a reduction in hours due to COVID-19.

  1. Michigan State Employer Account Number: 0800416-000.
  2. Michigan State Federal Employer Identification Number : 38-6005984
  3. Please see the Fact Sheet provided by the State of Michigan for additional personal information that may be needed.

The State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is currently working on implementation of the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). More information can be found at www.michigan.gov/uia. The State of Michigan states that if you already applied for unemployment benefits, you DO NOT need to reapply at this time.

The State of Michigan has provided the following guidelines concerning the days on which people should submit applications for unemployment to the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency:

  • Online Filing Schedule – www.michigan.gov/uia
    • Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to file claims on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays.
    • Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
    • Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
  • Call Center Filing Schedule - 866-500-0017:
    • Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between  8:00am – 5:00pm.
    • Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between  8:00am – 5:00pm.
    • Fridays (8:00am – 5:00pm) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
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