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New CDC advice: Most vaccinated Californians should wear masks indoors

Karen Himmaugh rings up Barbara Bunker's groceries at Piazza's Fine Foods in Palo Alto on April 9, 2020. Most vaccinated Californians are advised to wear masks in public indoor places under new CDC guidance issued on July 27, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Editor's note: This article was updated on July 28 to report that state officials have decided to follow the new CDC guidelines.

Nearly all vaccinated Californians should return to wearing masks indoors under new federal guidelines issued Tuesday for areas where COVID-19 is surging.

The new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention apply to regions with "high or substantial" transmission rates, which includes 45 of California's 58 counties and about 96% of its nearly 40 million people.

The guidelines would cover all of California's most populous counties. The counties, with lower COVID-19 rates, that are not included are: Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Glenn, Tehama, Lassen, Modoc, Sierra, Alpine, Mono, Inyo and Tulare. About 1.7 million people live in those counties.

The announcement reverses an earlier CDC recommendation, issued in mid-May, that it was safe for vaccinated people to remove their masks in most settings.

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All unvaccinated people, including children not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, should continue to wear masks in all public indoor places under state and federal recommendations.

The CDC also recommended on Tuesday that vaccinated people in all areas of the country wear masks indoors if they are immunocompromised or have a higher risk of severe disease if infected, or if they live with someone who is. It also issued guidelines that everyone who attends, works at or visits a K-12 school wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

As in other states, California's COVID-19 cases have spiked in recent weeks as the more infectious delta variant has become dominant. Nearly 30% of eligible Californians remain unvaccinated along with children too young to be immunized.

Nationally, nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties are experiencing high or substantial transmission rates, according to CDC data.

State health officials on Tuesday reported more than 7,700 new COVID-19 cases and five new deaths, compared to about 700 new cases on June 15, the state's reopening day.

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In response, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said health care workers and state employees must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing and wear masks. The federal government is expected to follow suit on Thursday, CNN reported Tuesday.

Los Angeles County and city officials also renewed indoor mask mandates in mid-July. Yolo and Ventura counties have followed suit.

On Wednesday, the state public health department updated its mask guidance to align with the new CDC recommendations, asking vaccinated Californians to mask up in indoor public spaces.

The new federal guidelines were prompted by evidence showing that the delta variant may be more likely than other variants to cause breakthrough cases in vaccinated people, and those people may still carry large quantities of the virus that can be passed to others, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. But she also noted that such breakthrough cases remain rare.

In California, about 21,000 breakthrough cases have been identified among nearly 21 million fully vaccinated people — just .1%, according to state health data.

Some public health experts were relieved by the CDC's reversal on Tuesday after criticizing its previous guidance, issued before the delta variant became predominant, as misguided.

"The CDC's decision in May to apply one size fits all mask guidance regardless of vaccines or prevalence was always a bad one for this exact reason: every community is different, and public health should be flexible enough to accommodate those distinctions," University of Saskatchewan virologist Angela Rasmussen tweeted Tuesday. "By oversimplifying complex and uncertain situations … we will not convince people to wear masks if they weren't already or persuade skeptics to get vaccinated."

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New CDC advice: Most vaccinated Californians should wear masks indoors

by / CalMatters

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 8:47 am
Updated: Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 2:44 pm

Editor's note: This article was updated on July 28 to report that state officials have decided to follow the new CDC guidelines.

Nearly all vaccinated Californians should return to wearing masks indoors under new federal guidelines issued Tuesday for areas where COVID-19 is surging.

The new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention apply to regions with "high or substantial" transmission rates, which includes 45 of California's 58 counties and about 96% of its nearly 40 million people.

The guidelines would cover all of California's most populous counties. The counties, with lower COVID-19 rates, that are not included are: Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Glenn, Tehama, Lassen, Modoc, Sierra, Alpine, Mono, Inyo and Tulare. About 1.7 million people live in those counties.

The announcement reverses an earlier CDC recommendation, issued in mid-May, that it was safe for vaccinated people to remove their masks in most settings.

All unvaccinated people, including children not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, should continue to wear masks in all public indoor places under state and federal recommendations.

The CDC also recommended on Tuesday that vaccinated people in all areas of the country wear masks indoors if they are immunocompromised or have a higher risk of severe disease if infected, or if they live with someone who is. It also issued guidelines that everyone who attends, works at or visits a K-12 school wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

As in other states, California's COVID-19 cases have spiked in recent weeks as the more infectious delta variant has become dominant. Nearly 30% of eligible Californians remain unvaccinated along with children too young to be immunized.

Nationally, nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties are experiencing high or substantial transmission rates, according to CDC data.

State health officials on Tuesday reported more than 7,700 new COVID-19 cases and five new deaths, compared to about 700 new cases on June 15, the state's reopening day.

In response, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said health care workers and state employees must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing and wear masks. The federal government is expected to follow suit on Thursday, CNN reported Tuesday.

Los Angeles County and city officials also renewed indoor mask mandates in mid-July. Yolo and Ventura counties have followed suit.

On Wednesday, the state public health department updated its mask guidance to align with the new CDC recommendations, asking vaccinated Californians to mask up in indoor public spaces.

The new federal guidelines were prompted by evidence showing that the delta variant may be more likely than other variants to cause breakthrough cases in vaccinated people, and those people may still carry large quantities of the virus that can be passed to others, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. But she also noted that such breakthrough cases remain rare.

In California, about 21,000 breakthrough cases have been identified among nearly 21 million fully vaccinated people — just .1%, according to state health data.

Some public health experts were relieved by the CDC's reversal on Tuesday after criticizing its previous guidance, issued before the delta variant became predominant, as misguided.

"The CDC's decision in May to apply one size fits all mask guidance regardless of vaccines or prevalence was always a bad one for this exact reason: every community is different, and public health should be flexible enough to accommodate those distinctions," University of Saskatchewan virologist Angela Rasmussen tweeted Tuesday. "By oversimplifying complex and uncertain situations … we will not convince people to wear masks if they weren't already or persuade skeptics to get vaccinated."

Email Barbara Feder Ostrov at [email protected]

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics.

Comments

Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Jul 28, 2021 at 11:00 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 11:00 am

CDC has lost a lot of credibility and we need to scrutinize their policy recommendations carefully.

We have data showing that immunizations *are* very effective even against variants. We also have accumulated data showing that general masking with those little blue masks and cloth is *not* very effective. Masking is just a feel-good measure to demonstrate political affiliation and to make people feel like they have some control.

We know that people can protect themselves if they choose. Let's let them decide which risks they choose to accept.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Jul 28, 2021 at 11:21 am
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 11:21 am

Back to the new normal. Are we safe yet??? Not as long as fools refuse to have themselves and their families vaccinated. Maybe they should move somewhere far away. If only.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2021 at 11:46 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 11:46 am

What about the contact tracing app? This was supposed to alert us when we have been near someone who has tested positive? This with vaccines was supposed to make us safe.

I have the vaccine, I have the app. I have not been alerted that I have been near someone who has tested positive.

Can we believe anything any more? I feel it is now a power grab policy to get us to do what government wants.

If the vaccine and the app both work then we should not have to depend on flimsy pieces of poor fitting fabric to "keep us safe" or anyone else safe!

What about the vaccine passport app? Can't that give us freedom?


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2021 at 12:28 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 12:28 pm

“Masking is just a feel-good measure to demonstrate political affiliation and to make people feel like they have some control“

No it’s not. [Portion removed.] Masking is highly effective but not a magic shield. It depends on the amount of time spent indoors. It’s also “masking in combination with distancing.” Please stop spreading false information that “masks don’t work” and stating the nonsense case about “personal freedom.” [Portion removed.] Masking DOES protect you and others.

I think I’ll believe the MIT researchers over your misinformed post:
Web Link

Also, this isn’t about the “CDC’s credibility.” It’s a fluid situation. If everybody would have taken the vaccine, since we had more vaccine than we knew what to do with in the U.S. we likely wouldn’t have had to mask up again. But blame the CDC and not the vaccine holdouts. Sigh.

@The Bystander:
You have posted similar. You are likely pretty safe now. The problem is the CDC knows that the Delta Variant is somewhat vaccine resistant. It’s causing an increase in so called breakthrough cases. Reading between the lines, the CDC likely doesn’t want to announce this formally because they are worried the vaccine holdouts will say things like, “well if the vaccine isn’t effective why should I get it?” Public health is not a power grab. It really falls on the shoulders of the unvaccinated at this point. The Delta variant is two times more transmissible than smallpox. It has the potential to infect more people and cause an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths very quickly due to its transmissibility.

Pfizer announced today their booster will give protection against the Delta. So it will be a 1/2/3 dose soon.

Web Link


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Jul 28, 2021 at 3:10 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 3:10 pm

@"The Voice": I agree with you almost completely.

Also, re the Pfizer booster data I found online in a Pfizer quarterly report, there is a lot of promise but there is a lot of further work to be done to make such booster injections deemed safe and prudent for general public distribution. In the mean time, masking, social distancing, and avoiding unnecessary and/or recreational indoor exposure appear to be the best alternatives.

The data and conclusions are not peer reviewed, and the data cited appear to apply only for age groups 18 to 65 (5x titer), and 65 to 85 (11x titer) years old.

The statements of 5x to 11x greater potential protection from the Delta variant following a third "booster" dose of the Pfizer / BNT vaccine are only applicable for patients who have received their first two doses of the Pfizer / BNT vaccine. They do not apply to those of us who have received two doses of Moderna, J&J, or Astrazenica vaccines.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 28, 2021 at 6:06 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 6:06 pm

There was a time that blue media told more of the truth than red media regarding the virus science, e.g., the people most at risk by age, body fat, and comorbidity, and the helpfulness of masking, etc. That unfortunately is no longer the case. Now, many people on team blue are still clinging to the nostalgia of defeating Trump (who did not try hardly at all in this regard). So, back comes all the contradictions---yes, the vaccine is something good, but you should mask again, and similar mandates because it sounds like doing something to the overly fearful and conservative, most easily controlled, uncritical, and submissive. As I have said before, the left does not have to tell civil libertarians to take a hike, there's no place for your opinions on the blue team. But that is what we are doing by these panicky Nanny state re-masking mandate orders for the fully vaccinated, and the very young and fit, etc.


Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 6:12 pm
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 6:12 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Jul 28, 2021 at 8:18 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 8:18 pm

The CDC IS undermining its own credibility. I'm reading articles, and hearing it from MDs and scientists. I'm talking to MIT grads (Kent & Lynnette). Unless you're an MD or a scientist. It's not misinformation -- Jane and Bystander. It's their opinion that you disagree with, and you have to learn to agree to disagree. You have no idea where we'd be on the mask situation. No one does.

There is inherent risk in everyday living. And logical people will decide what risks we want to take.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2021 at 9:08 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 9:08 pm

I posted evidence. All your supposed evidence is anecdotal. (I “talked to so and so /“I read this article.”) Those that concern themselves with worry about “the credibility of the CDC” are simple. Projection models had the United States in a worst case scenario at 250,000 cases a day and 4000 deaths per day just like last year. Delta is causing pandemic 2.0. The CDC also knows that the Delta variant is at least somewhat vaccine resistant and Delta may be spread by vaccinated people due to the higher viral load. So even vaccinated people aren’t completely safe. Also, children under 12 are not yet vaccine eligible. That is the information the CDC is going off of to make their new mandates and/or recommendations. The United States is a large and heavily populated country and it is difficult to issue advice that applies to the entire country as we have entered the “new normal.” Although outbreaks are becoming more regionalized depending on vaccine uptake in communities, the CDC also received a report that all states reported an increase in cases last week. It’s fair to argue the CDC should not have dropped masking in the first place as over 1000 epidemiologists all felt we would be masking until January 2022 as reported by the NYT. It was a misguided ploy to get the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. “Look what you can do if you get vaccinated!” It backfired obviously. Regardless, masking works(that’s the misinformation I pointed out to clarify) and that is why CDC has told everyone to mask up again due to Delta. Masking slows the spread. The truth is everyone is worn out and doesn’t want to mask anymore if they are vaccinated. SCC is highly vaccinated so it feels safer here now so “it’s a nanny state” but LA is not safe. It’s not because not masking is actually safer or the right thing to do. [Portion removed.]


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Jul 28, 2021 at 9:36 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 9:36 pm

The CDC needs to be consistent. If not, you lose credibility and that's true in any profession. Nobody is interested in web links that could contain a virus. Unless they're foolish. I do agree that masks help stop the thread, and I won't be wearing one now that I'm vaccinated. I'm vaccinated for a reason in a highly vaccinated area. We're all worn out. [Portion removed.]


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2021 at 10:09 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 10:09 pm
Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Jul 28, 2021 at 10:31 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 10:31 pm
John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 29, 2021 at 5:09 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 29, 2021 at 5:09 pm

Just heard on the radio, London Breed, the mayor of SF, and fellow blue-team member, say that mandates for wearing masks outdoors, for everyone, even those fully vaxxed are going to happen, because...'if we didn't do anything, there would be 300 deaths in a very short period of time.'

But...isn't that one of the things that we used to criticize team red for doing? (pulling statistics out of rear-ends to justify their doofus points?). Well, don't look now, but we at team blue are doing the same exact thing now.


Neal
Registered user
Community Center
on Jul 30, 2021 at 7:33 am
Neal, Community Center
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 7:33 am

For those of you who think masks are not effective, I have two questions?
Would you be willing to undergo major surgery from the surgical team that refuses to wear a mask?
Would you be willing to work in a Covid ward without a mask?


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 30, 2021 at 7:45 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 7:45 am

I am not arguing that masks are not effective, Neal, only that for the fully vaccinated, they should not be mandated. Bubble wrap is also highly effective, to prevent injuries such as from a fall, but I do not want the government to tell me to wear bubble wrap all over my body.


StarSpring
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 30, 2021 at 8:07 am
StarSpring, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

fully vaccinated individuals can still catch and spread covid. you might not even be aware you are now spreading the virus. we are still in the midst of the pandemic, the CDC is not being inconsistent, they are adapting to a very fluid situation. wear your mask.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:05 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:05 am

I have a sneaking suspicion that another "stimulus" will be in the works by the end of the year. It might not really help those who are truly in need or even help fight COVID; however, no one likes to turn down "free" money.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:08 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:08 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 30, 2021 at 10:32 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 10:32 am

A major problem here is that the citizens are subjected to strict rules regarding travel and masking. Meanwhile we have open borders where thousands of people, some infected, are crossing now with no restrictions, no review, and are spreading out over the state and country. We are being infected by people who are not following any guidelines as they cross the border. They are coming here in part because they can not get shots in their country and because they are being promised all type of free stuff. No one is talking about the problem and it is increeasing in volume.

People talk about the homeless who are in part US citizens. Stories in the papers about the homeless who are crossing the border. The US Gov needs to control the border to reduce the amount of infected people who are crossing and bringing the new strains of the disease. This is not a free world location. WE are suffering here with our individual problems.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 30, 2021 at 10:54 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 10:54 am

This is another issue the blue team will not seriously address--and could, and it is regretful.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2021 at 11:44 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 11:44 am

BBC News report on Vaccine Tourists coming to US. Web Link I wonder how this skews things!


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2021 at 12:29 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 12:29 pm

The border stuff/vaccine tourists stuff is just a talking point from that “other news” channel and on social media to try to disparage Biden that he somehow “lost control of our borders” and is also being used as an excuse for Red States that have lost control of the virus. Do Missouri and Louisiana that have out of control Covid also have a border issue? No. It’s a silly excuse. Things were the same if not worse at our borders under “The Former Guy” during Covid. Any influx of people across our borders is having a minimal effect on the numbers of Coronavirus infections. The real problem is the approximately 100 million U.S. citizens refusing to be vaccinated. That silly talking point is all nonsense. Don’t fall for it.

Web Link

[Portion removed.]


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 30, 2021 at 1:09 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 1:09 pm

I'm reminded of that girl who's now in jail for having urged her boyfriend or friend to kill himself. What's the liability for people like Carlson et al and various politicians urging people not to mask up and/or get vaccinated and thus endangering themselves and others while perpetuating this lunacy and destroying the economy. Seems like ample grounds for damages.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 30, 2021 at 1:15 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 1:15 pm

Voice - I have relatives in law enforcement on the border. Meanwhile you are sitting in "Crescent Park". If that is in fact true. The border is a major issue and is going to be one of the reasons that the governor is going to be booted out. He is breaking the law regarding border control. No - he cannot do that. He cannot throw taz payer money to everyone and anyone. Credability has been lost here. Zero credibility.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 30, 2021 at 5:06 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 5:06 pm
chewie
Registered user
University South
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:45 pm
chewie, University South
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:45 pm

Please show me long-term data on the safety and efficacy that it is safe for children if it exists. If not, please show me long-term safety data for adults if it exists. We have been in lockdown for only about a year.


AlexDeLarge
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:53 pm
AlexDeLarge, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2021 at 9:53 pm


"We're doomed, doomed I say." - Dr Zachary Smith esteemed intergalactic psychologist


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2021 at 8:37 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 31, 2021 at 8:37 am

How's the contact tracing app doing? Haven't heard it talked about since it came out. I haven't been pinged yet.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 31, 2021 at 8:40 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 31, 2021 at 8:40 am

In those places that were serious about contact tracing, such as Taiwan and Hawaii, etc., it was very effective. Those places who cared much more about the self-righteous pose than actually doing it, such as California, less effective...


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 2, 2021 at 11:45 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2021 at 11:45 am
The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2021 at 12:59 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2021 at 12:59 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2021 at 1:22 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2021 at 1:22 pm

[Post removed; unsupported speculation.]


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2021 at 7:23 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2021 at 7:23 pm

Time was when journalists asked the tough questions. Now when tough questions are being asked they are deleted as unsupported speculation. I do not want to speculate, but I do think tough questions should be asked.

[Portion removed.]


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2021 at 8:04 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2021 at 8:04 am
mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 6, 2021 at 6:46 am
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 6, 2021 at 6:46 am

We are going about it all wrong. Fully vaccinated people should not be forced to wear masks. There should be a federal law that mandates that people must be fully vaccinated. Those who refuse should not be allowed to mix with those who are vaccinated. They should not be allowed to enter restaurants, gyms, sport stadiums, concerts, offices, movie theaters, public transportation or get on air planes. This can be achieved by a digital vaccine passport that is scanned upon entry, like a gym membership card or a boarding pass. CNN if firing every employee refusing to be vaccinated, and that should set an example for all employers, big and small.

The public has a right not to be infected by the unvaccinated, and the government must protect the vaccinated people from those who perpetuate the pandemic by refusing to be vaccinated.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:12 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 6, 2021 at 10:12 am

Unfortunately, the FDA has to preemptively prepare for abuse from my legal profession, before they can approve. Once that happens, I'm with you, Mauricio.


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