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COVID-19: Business owners welcome customers as Ontario enters Step 3 – Ottawa Sun

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As the case count falls, Ontarians were able hit the gym, have breakfast inside their favourite restaurant, catch a movie and gather indoors in groups of 25 under.

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Hungry customers were lined up outside John’s Diner on Wellington Street at 5:30 a.m. Friday, when the venerable Westboro eatery opened for breakfast.

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“It’s been steady all day,” said Tony Fatoum, who runs the restaurant with his father, the namesake John, and brother Paul.

“The customers are quite relieved. They’re saying ‘It’s a good thing we’re not outside anymore.’ It was always too hot, or too sunny or too rainy.”

John’s never had a formal patio option, but during the shutdown Tony would put out chairs from his own house for customers to use.

He jokes “it helped me build my core strength” but he’s glad to be serving customers inside again.

Movie screens are another business reopening Friday for the first time in months.

“What a joy it is to get back to the routine of posting daily showtimes! Looking forward to seeing our patrons today after what seems like years (actually about 120 days)” the Mayfair Theatre tweeted Friday.

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It reopens with a screening of the documentary The Specials and a limited capacity of 95 patrons.

Meanwhile, Heather Andrews, co-owner of Wheelhouse Cycle spin studio, said gymgoers were eager to return to the bikes on Friday, with a full house on hand for a noon-hour class — the second of four classes on the day.

“It seems like people are feeling very comfortable and are very laid back,” she said in a phone interview from the studio’s location near City Centre.

While Wheelhouse has offered online classes since shortly after the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Andrews said clients have expressed to her how mentally challenging it’s been to be away from the studio and its community.

“I think we’re … so grateful to be able to be together and finally move our bodies like that.

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‘We (did) some things online, but the general message has been … this is really hard mentally more so than physically. Not being able to move my body and and be around my community.”

“People feel hopeful that their mental health is going to start to improve.”

Andrews said she felt a surge of energy in welcoming back people to the studio

“Speaking for myself, I felt so alive today.

“I think folks are hoping it will just get better and better from here so that we can actually … not wear masks, so that we can actually really make those connections.”

At the Flora Hall brewpub in Centretown, preparations are underway to welcome indoor dining for the first time since early spring.

With Step 3 starting Friday, the restaurant is combining its indoor and outdoor dining spaces to see how customers respond, according to owner Dave Longbottom.

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While Flora Hall boasts a large covered outdoor dining space, Longbottom said everybody is “pretty excited about the prospect” of returning to indoor dining.

“It’s the freedom… and the ability to choose — I think that’s appealing to people most after such a difficult several months,” he explained.

It also means that restaurants will no longer have to worry about inclement weather upending plans to welcome customers. And while Longbottom is welcoming the move to Step 3, he acknowledged that the transition process and changes in rules between these reopening phases have created challenges for staff.

“This is yet another transition and people get stressed by the change because it’s complicated. We still got to enforce all of the protocols and rules required of us by Ottawa public health but in yet another new configuration. I think that’s where the stress comes for the staff.”

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Gym owner Jeff Christison wasn’t there when his customers started showing up for their workouts Friday morning. He’d been up late the night before, visiting each of his nine Anytime Fitness locations programming the automated doors to allow clients access again.

Government subsidies helped him weather the COVID-19 shutdown, when many of his clients cancelled or suspended their memberships. But he’s glad the doors are open again.

“I opened the businesses to stay in business,” Christison said. “If there’s things that we have to do to keep the population safe from the virus, we’ll do that.”

Under Step 3 of the province’s reopening protocols, the gym can now have up to 50 per cent of capacity, based on floorspace.

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That’s fairer than the pre-shutdown rules that limited capacity to no more than 50 people, he said. Christison can control capacity by programming a set number of allowable door swipes by members’ key fobs. And he’s optimistic.

“I’ve seen what’s happened around the globe with our company and I know that the health and wellness industry has really bounced back strong,” Christison said.

“People have realized the importance of being healthy.”

Ottawa Public Health corrected its COVID-19 case count on Friday, reporting minus-one new cases.

(Cases are sometimes removed after data cleanups.)

There are just 21 active cases in the city and, for the second day in a row, there were no COVID-19 patients in hospital.

The death toll remained unchanged at 593 since the pandemic began.

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The seven-day reproductive rate, R(t) rate fell to 0.62. Anything lower than 1.0 indicates the infection is subsiding.

As of Friday, 82 per cent of people over the age of 12 had received one dose, while 60 per cent are fully vaccinated. For those 18 years and over, 82 per cent had one dose, and 62 per cent were fully. For the entire population, the rates were 72 per cent and 52 per cent.

The OPH is continuing its drop-in vaccine program this weekend at select community clinics.

Every community clinic accepts drop-ins for first doses.

Second dose drop-ins are available between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the following locations Friday, Saturday and Sunday:

  • Canadian Tire Centre
  • Eva James Community Centre
  • Horticulture Building at Lansdowne
  • Nepean Sportsplex (Halls A and B and Curling Rink)
  • Orléans YMCA
  • Ottawa City Hall
  • Minto Sports Complex at uOttawa

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The list of locations is updated daily on ottawapublichealth.ca

Latest COVID-19 news in Ontario

Two professional groups representing health-care workers in Ontario are calling for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for the sector.

Statements from the Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario came the day after Premier Doug Ford said he wouldn’t make the vaccine mandatory.

Dr. Adam Kassam, president of the medical association, said Friday that vaccination is the best way to control the pandemic and protect patients.

The nurses’ group said Ford is on the wrong side of science and called for mandatory shots.

Ford said on Thursday that he encourages people to be vaccinated but thinks they should have the right to refuse the shot.He has also rejected the idea of an Ontario “vaccine passport” system.

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Ontario reported 159 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, the day the province entered Step 3 of its gradual reopening program.

There were 10 new deaths reported, bringing the toll to 9,285 since the pandemic began.

Friday’s numbers include 34 new cases in Grey Bruce, 25 in Waterloo, 23 in Toronto and 12 in Peel Region. More than 168,000 vaccine doses were administered Thursday, bringing the total to 17.8 million for the province.

There are 159 people in hospital, 158 in intensive care and 112 on ventilators.

There were no new cases reported in Eastern Ontario’s five public health units, including Ottawa, the province reported.

Most of the remaining social and business restrictions could be lifted in Ontario as soon as 21 days from now.

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According to the province, step 3 conditions will apply until 80 per cent of the eligible provincial population aged 12 and over has received one dose of a COVID-19 and 75 per cent have received their second, with no public health unit having less than 70 per cent of their eligible population aged 12 and over fully vaccinated.

Latest COVID-19 news in Quebec

Quebec is offering $2 million in cash prizes and student bursaries to encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health Minister Christian Dubé and Finance Minister Eric Girard said the Loto-Québec system will be split into prizes for adults and for children aged 12 to 17, who will need to register on the government’s online vaccine-appointment portal to be eligible to win.

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Girard said the government will draw names every Friday in August, and the grand prize will be drawn Sept. 3, adding that any vaccinated Quebecers can start registering to be part of the lottery on July 25, regardless of when they received their shots.

Adults who have had at least one dose will be eligible to win a weekly cash prize of $150,000, and adults with two doses will be eligible to win the grand prize of $600,000 on Sept. 3.

Children aged 12 to 17 with one dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible each Friday in August to win two student bursaries worth $10,000 each, and fully vaccinated children will be in the running for 16 bursaries worth $20,000 each for the final draw on Sept. 3.

Meanwhile, health officials are reporting 83 new COVID-19 cases today and three more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, none of which occurred in the past 24 hours.

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Officials say hospitalizations rose by three, to 84, and 25 people were in intensive care, a rise of two.

More than 82 per cent of Quebecers 12 and older have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 52 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated. The province says 99,852 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered Thursday.

Latest COVID-19 news nationally

Travel to and from the U.S. may resume soon, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying Thursday that the federal government is aiming to allow fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada again by as early as mid-August.

And if the current vaccination rate remains on its upward trajectory, fully vaccinated travellers from around the world could begin arriving by early September, Trudeau told the premiers.

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The news was quietly disclosed in the final paragraphs of a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office of his call with the provinces and territories to discuss the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The prime minister noted that, if our current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue, Canada would be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travellers from all countries by early September,” it reads.

“He noted the ongoing discussions with the United States on reopening plans, and indicated that we could expect to start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel.”

Pressure has been mounting on the federal government to continue to ease the restrictions at the border, which have been in effect since March of last year.

But as Trudeau is widely believed to be on his way to triggering a federal election campaign, the timing of reopening the border could be a factor in his thinking.

The province administered 101,415 doses of vaccine in the past 24 hours, for a total of 9,853, 761 since the pandemic began.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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B.C. kicks off COVID campaign to boost vaccination – Powell River Peak

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia has kicked off a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign to encourage as many people as possible over the next two weeks to get immunized at places that are convenient, like beaches and summer camps.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the new strategy, called Vax for BC, gives residents who aren’t vaccinated, and those who’ve waited at least seven weeks since their first shot a chance to visit walk-in clinics.

A campaign on Aug. 4 dubbed Walk-in Wednesday will make 20,000 doses available at clinics before a push later in the month and in September to target young people returning to school.

“People in B.C. will be able to get vaccinated on your way to work, during your lunch break, or even when cooling off at the lake,” Henry said Tuesday.

The campaign aims to increase immunization by switching the focus from mass clinics to mobile clinics where advance booking is not required but is encouraged.

“These next two weeks are crucial to our immunization campaign and most importantly, protecting our province and putting the pandemic in our rear-view mirror,” she said, adding two doses of a vaccine provide the best protection against infection.

British Columbia’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases dipped to 36 in early July, but recently climbed to 86 cases.

The province reported 150 new cases on Tuesday, with more than 60 per cent of them in the Interior Health region. There were 783 active infections in B.C., up from 695 on Monday, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Recent statistics show that most new cases of COVID-19 have been among unvaccinated people in the province, where 62.3 per cent of eligible residents are fully immunized and 80.7 per cent have received at least one dose.

Data from the BC Centre of Disease Control show that less than five per cent of COVID-19 cases from June 15 to July 15 were among fully vaccinated people. During the same time period, 78 per cent of people hospitalized in B.C. with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Henry said infections are spreading among clusters of people in communities where vaccination rates are lower so they will be a focus of the immunization plan, including in regions covered by Northern and Interior Health.

Between one and two per cent of people in B.C. are against being immunized, but that number could be as high as five per cent for COVID-19 vaccines among organized groups that are particularly vocal, especially on social media, she said.

People who are unvaccinated could be barred from establishments, Henry said, adding she supports that move by any business because outbreaks could sicken staff and shut down operations.

“We absolutely can say ‘To come in here you have to be immunized.’ And that gives people a level of comfort that they’re in a safer environment,” she said, adding outbreaks have occurred at crowded indoor events like weddings and funerals as well as at nightclubs where unvaccinated people introduced the virus.

While immunization is not mandatory, it’s particularly important for health-care workers, Henry said, noting unvaccinated staff at long-term care homes must wear masks and be regularly tested at work.

“I have very little patience for people who aren’t immunized in health care. We’ve had a vaccination policy for influenza. We will have a very similar policy that if people choose not to be immunized and you work in health care, then you will not be able to work in certain settings without taking additional measures. There will be consequences for that decision.”

The highest number of unvaccinated residents, at 32.5 per cent, are in the North Health region, while that percentage is at 18.1 per cent in Vancouver Coastal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

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The science didn't change, the virus did, Fauci says as U.S. CDC updates mask guidance – CTV News

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The change in CDC guidance recommending all Americans wear a mask indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission is a sign of the change the Delta variant has carved into the pandemic landscape, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.

“We’re not changing the science,” the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “The virus changed, and the science evolved with the changing virus.”

Before Tuesday, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention advised only unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors. But with the spread of the Delta variant — believed to be at least twice as transmissible as the Alpha variant, which was dominate in the U.S. in the spring — and vaccination rates remaining low while infection rates on the rise, the CDC updated its guidance to advise that everyone in high transmission areas wear a mask when indoors.

Currently, only 49.2% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Some experts point to unvaccinated Americans as an important factor in the mask guidance change, saying the measure had to be implemented to get them to mask up.

“Eighty million American adults have made a choice. They made a choice not to get the vaccine, and those same people are not masking and that is the force that is propagating this virus around this country,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN.

But others, including the CDC, said the decision had more to do with new data showing that, unlike with other strains, vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta variant can still get high viral loads, making it more likely they could spread the virus.

“Unlike the Alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn’t believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with a Delta variant,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, citing information investigators found when looking at outbreak clusters.

With nearly all 50 states undergoing a surge of new cases averaging at least 10% more than the week before, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said the U.S. is seeing just how dangerous the variant is in real time.

“This is actually what you want to happen with science. You want science to be dynamic, you want recommendations to reflect the latest science, and that’s what you see in the recommendations that were issued today,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.

But one thing hasn’t changed, Murthy added, saying data is still showing current vaccines are highly protective against infection, severe illness and death from the Delta variant.

Vaccinations are still the ‘bedrock’ of ending the pandemic

While masking up will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., getting vaccinated is still “the bedrock” to ending the pandemic, Murthy said.

“Vaccines still work. They still save lives. They still prevent hospitalizations at a remarkably high rate,” he added.

Vaccination rates are still not where they need to be to get enough of the U.S. inoculated against the virus to slow or stop its spread, experts have said. Many experts have advocated for vaccine requirements as one way to increase vaccination rates in the U.S.

Los Angeles officials announced Tuesday that the city will require all of its employees to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.

“The fourth wave is here, and the choice for Angelenos couldn’t be clearer — get vaccinated or get COVID-19,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “We’re committed to pursuing a full vaccine mandate. I urge employers across Los Angeles to follow this example,” he added.

The move comes after the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Los Angeles County nearly doubled in the past two weeks. There are currently 745 people hospitalized with the virus, compared to 372 people two weeks ago, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Such requirements by local entities are “very reasonable,” Murthy said Tuesday.

Some U.S. hospitals and federal agencies are mandating that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing. Murthy noted that many private institutions are considering following suit.

“Those are decisions the federal government is not going to make,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “It’s going to be institutions that make them, but I do think that they are very reasonable, because this is a time when we’ve got to take all steps possible to protect not just ourselves, but the people around us, from COVID-19.”

Officials call for more vaccinations as hospitals are overwhelmed

The impact of the Delta variant and increasing cases can be seen in the data and in the strain on hospitals.

After decreases over the past couple of months, cases of COVID-19 among children and teens are on the rise again, with more than 38,600 infected last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday.

More than 4.13 million kids have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Kids represent more than 14% of the weekly reported cases.

In Springfield-Greene County in Missouri, the CoxHealth hospital system is having to expand its morgue capacity due to an increase in COVID-19 related deaths, President and CEO Steve Edwards said Tuesday.

“Last year we did expand it and we are expanding it further. We’ve actually brought in a portable piece of technology that allows bodies to be cooled and placed outside the morgue. We have had to expand that because the mortality has gone up so much lately,” Edwards said during an update in the county on behalf of CoxHealth.

In explaining what he called the “severity of the disease”, Edwards said, “We’ve had over 4,000 admissions for COVID. And with 549 deaths that means thirteen and a half percent of our admissions have died. And when we look in our ICUs, about 40% of patients that are in the ICU don’t make it out of the ICU.”

In New Orleans, as cases have gone up, hospitals have become strapped for resources and started turning people away, Communications Director for the City of New Orleans Beau Tidwell said Tuesday.

“For God’s sake, get your vaccine,” he added.

The CDC called on doctors and public health officials to act urgently to get more Americans vaccinated.

“COVID-19 cases have increased over 300% nationally from June 19 to July 23, 2021, along with parallel increases in hospitalizations and deaths driven by the highly transmissible B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant,” the CDC said in Tuesday’s health alert.

Without more vaccinations, the U.S. could see increased morbidity and mortality related to COVID-19, which could continue to overwhelm healthcare facilities, the CDC said.

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Vaccinated should wear masks indoors in US COVID hotspots: CDC – Al Jazeera English

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People in parts of the United States where COVID-19 infections are surging should wear masks indoors even if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the country’s public health agency has advised.

Citing new information about the ability of the Delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and help protect others,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during an afternoon news briefing.

The US is averaging more than 57,000 coronavirus cases a day and 24,000 hospitalisations, and public health officials for weeks have warned that COVID-19 infections are increasing, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

Walensky said while vaccinated Americans represent “a very small amount of transmission” – and stressed that the vast majority of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths is occurring among unvaccinated individuals – vaccinated people still have the ability to pass the virus on to others.

“With the Delta variant, vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever,” she added.

Rising infections

The recent rise in cases comes after mask-wearing and other public health restrictions were loosened, and restaurants, bars and other venues reopened in many parts of the country amid a sharp increase in national vaccination rates.

The new CDC recommendations are not binding and many Americans, especially in Republican-leaning states, may choose not to follow them.

“This is not a decision that we … have made lightly,” Walensky said about the new guidelines, acknowledging that many people are frustrated by the ongoing pandemic. “This new data weighs heavily on me, this new guidance weighs heavily on me.”

US President Joe Biden welcomed the agency’s recommendations on Tuesday as “another step on our journey to defeating this virus”.

“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it,” Biden said in a statement, adding that masking students in schools “is inconvenient … but will allow them to learn and be with their classmates with the best available protection”.

“Most importantly, today’s announcement also makes clear that the most important protection we have against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. Although most U.S. adults are vaccinated, too many are not. While we have seen an increase in vaccinations in recent days, we still need to do better,” Biden said.

The CDC had advised people to wear masks for much of the pandemic in settings where they could not maintain six feet (1.8 metres) of distance between themselves and others.

In April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the guidance was eased further for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the recent increase in cases. [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Coronavirus vaccines are widely available across the US, and 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to CDC data. But millions of people remain unvaccinated – and the recent increase in cases is especially pronounced in US states with low vaccination rates, such as Florida.

‘Wrong direction’

Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, warned during the weekend that the US was moving “in the wrong direction” on the coronavirus – and he urged people to get jabs.

“If you look at the inflection of the curve of new infections,” Fauci said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday, stressing that most infections are among Americans who have not been vaccinated.

“It is among the unvaccinated and since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that’s a problem – particularly when you have a variant like Delta which has this extraordinary characteristic of being able to spread very efficiently and very easily from person to person,” he said.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the increase in cases.

In St Louis, Missouri, a county-wide mask mandate took effect on Monday, requiring most people, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors and on public transportation.

Sixty percent of US adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to data from the CDC [File: Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters]

Los Angeles, California also recently reinstated its mask requirement, while the top public health official in King County, Washington, which includes the city of Seattle, last week asked everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces – even if they are vaccinated.

Calls have also grown to require health workers, among others, to be vaccinated.

“Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” a group of more than 50 healthcare organisations, including the American Medical Association, said on Monday.

That same day, the US Department of Veterans Affairs said it would require its doctors and other medical staff to get COVID-19 vaccines, becoming the first federal agency to impose such a mandate.

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