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Wreaths Across America

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020


Every year since 2008, Congress proclaims a Saturday in December as National Wreaths Across America Day. 


This year, on Saturday, December 19, 2020, NOVA will be helping Arlington National Cemetery to Remember and Honor our Veterans by sponsoring Remembrance wreaths on the graves of our country's fallen heroes.


Please help us honor and remember as many fallen heroes as possible by sponsoring remembrance wreaths, volunteering on Wreaths Day, or inviting your family and friends to attend with you.


2020 Theme: Be an American Worth Fighting For

Inspired by Staff Sgt. Daniel Strong and his keynote address during the 2018 escort to Arlington at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School (Monty Tech), located in Fitchburg, MA. As an infantryman in the Marine Corps, he lost 18 Marines during his service, three were his friends when he was a Lance Corporal, six as their Squad Leader, and the remaining nine as their Platoon Sergeant.


SSgt. Strong's raw emotion was felt by all on that cold December day, as he spoke about his strong conviction to teach his JROTC students to exemplify, on a daily basis, the Wreaths Across America mission. “Be an American worth the sacrifice. In your daily operations, and in how you deal with one another and how you live your life. 


Those young men and women who are in Arlington National Cemetery and other cemeteries, they earned the right for you to be an "American worth fighting for.”


Order online through the direct link to the NOVA page by November 30th

  1. Click Sponsor Wreaths
  2. Select the # of wreaths to sponsor
  3. Add other options (grave specifics, etc.) as desired.
  4. Complete checkout process with credit/debit card or PayPal. Be sure to verify that NOVA’s group ID: Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs and location  ID: Arlington National Cemetery are indicated on your order prior to submitting. Thank you so much for supporting the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs and Wreaths Across America!

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Retired And Still A Resource...​

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020

Retired And Still A Resource...

If you plan to retire from the VA within the next six months, please consider joining as a NOVA Nurse Emeritus Member.

The Nurse Emeritus Group is composed of NOVA members who have retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs or who are planning retirement within the next calendar year. The Group is an established group within the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA) and, as such, adheres to all policies and practices as governed by the Bylaws of NOVA.

The Nurse Emeritus Members exist to support the mission and vision of NOVA through continuing engagement of nurses who have retired or have immediate plans to retire from active employment in VA.

The Nurse Emeritus Group:

  • Seeks to recognize and value the expertise of retired VA nurses through projects that support the working VA nurses and the Veterans they serve.

  • Strives to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of retired VA nurses through positive affirmation programs and projects.

  • Participates in projects such as NOVA membership promotion and fundraising efforts to support nursing scholarships.

The dues for NOVA Nurse Emeritus members are $50 per year.

NOVA is welcoming Nurse Emeritus applications.

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President’s Message

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020




Dear NOVA Members,

National Leadership Day is celebrated on September 4th. It is a day to recognize leaders who strive to make the world a better place; those who add value to the lives of the people they serve. 

In August 2020, prior to National Leadership Day, I attended the virtual conference, Nursing Alliance Leadership Academy (NALA): Educating Leaders in Nursing, with several national NOVA board members: TJ Wilcox-Olson, Ruth Holmes, Terry Acosta, Thelma Roach-Serry, Cathy Giasson, Betty Ogren, and Deb Dupnik. It was a great opportunity to develop and enhance our knowledge and skills related to governing and leading an organization effectively. Presentation topics included: “Leading with Joy”, “Leading Successful Virtual Meetings & Conferences”, “Legal & Financial Stewardship for Association Leaders”, “Leadership Styles in Times of Crisis”, “Developing an Effective Board-Executive Director Partnership”, “Coping with the New Reality as Leaders (Mental Health), and a “Virtual Sip, Laugh & Chat Closing Session”. The information presented on effective volunteer governance leadership was very valuable. I also enjoyed learning how to concoct the Mint Julep, a Kentucky classic; it was a fun way to end the program.

I came away from the NALA conference energized and inspired, but I recognize that actually staying inspired and energized after the conference isn’t so easy. Let’s face it. Leadership is hard work. Leaders are supposed to set the standard for work ethic while inspiring others to give their best. Feeling pressed for time, like there aren’t enough hours to do everything you want to do, is a reality. Everyone is so busy with personal and professional commitments these days, but having a healthy work life balance in order to maintain performance, efficiency and professional welfare is essential.

In honor of National Leadership Day, I would like to acknowledge some of our NOVA Nurse Leaders who deserve recognition. They serve in a variety of roles such as a VA Medical Center Director, VA Associate Director, Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive, Director on the national NOVA Board, Chairperson of a national NOVA Committee, and Facebook Administrator. See the photos below. These NOVA Nurse Leaders are LPNs, RNs, and APRNs who work in a variety of clinical settings and wear multiple hats. Not only are they functioning in numerous leadership positions, but they are also involved in a variety of professional nursing activities and volunteer opportunities. Through ambition and resilience, they are consistently pursuing greater goals.

To all our NOVA Nurse Leaders, thank you for your leadership and vision. These are unprecedented times, and the fact that you continue your ongoing efforts at the local, state and national level advancing the profession of nursing to ensure Veterans receive the quality care they deserve is commendable.

Stay safe and healthy!

With appreciation,


Kelly D. Skinner, DNP, APRN, NP-C, GNP-BC, CRRN, WCC, CFCN 

NOVA Nurse Leaders

VA Medical Center Director and ADPCS/Nurse Executives

National NOVA Board of Directors

National NOVA Committees Chairpersons and Facebook Administrator 

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Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020



Sometime between the week of NOVA’s Annual Meeting (October 25-31, 2020) and Veterans Day complete your 5K. That’s just 3.1 miles. You choose how you want to complete those miles - running, skipping, dancing, jogging, walking, swimming. You can do it all at once or break it up over a few days.


Support VA nurses by joining this fun experience to raise money for NOVA educational opportunities such as nursing scholarships. 

Each year NOVA’s Nurse Emeritus members champion the Mary Raymer Memorial Scholarship Fund . Monies raised this year will help to honor Mary Raymer’s contributions to NOVA and provide funds to a deserving nurse to offset educational expenses.


1-3 participants $40 per person

$99 for every group of 4 (save $15.25 on each) all medals will be shipped to one location

Every participant will receive a medal


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NOVA Nurse’s Pioneering Act Supports the VA’s Fourth Mission

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020


Vanessa Coronel, BSN, RN

VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA

NOVA Chapter 226


NOVA Nurse Karen Flaherty started her federal service career in 1988 as a postal carrier and worked there for 19 years. After her children were grown, she pursued her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. At age 42, Karen began nursing school and in 2006, obtained a nursing degree from Quincy College in Massachusetts. Wanting to continue her federal career, she attended a job fair where she met NOVA President Kelly Skinner and Nurse Recruiter, Regina Bauzys. “I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Karen said.

Karen’s father was a Veteran so caring for those who have sacrificed for their country has a special place in her heart. As a new graduate, she started working at the VA on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit. Karen knew that this was a great opportunity to give back to the Veterans and enhance her nursing skills. After working on the acute spinal cord injury unit for 6 years, she transitioned to Endoscopy where she specializes in motility procedures. To help diagnose gastrointestinal orders, Karen places probes in a patient’s nasopharyngeal area - a highly-specialized skill that requires knowledge of anatomy and techniques to place the probe with precision, accuracy and minimal discomfort to the patient. She has been in this role for the past eight years.

Joanne Hill, BSN, RN, MM, CGRN

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020, Karen accepted her nurse manager’s suggestion to be one of the first COVID-19 testers for VA Boston. Her nurse manager, Joanne Hill, who is also a NOVA member, believed that due to Karen’s highly-specialized skill set, she could teach other testers on how to conduct nasopharyngeal tests (nasal swabs) the proper way. “I really did not fear for my safety. In the back of my mind, I knew that there was always a risk of exposure but we have the appropriate personal protective equipment,” Karen said. “I am confident that VA Boston will not put me in a situation where my safety will be compromised. I know that the virus is highly contagious and deadly but if we do things right then there should be no fear. I was concerned but I was not fearful.” As of today, Karen has been free from COVID-19 infections.

The VA’s fourth mission is to provide service to Veterans in times of national emergencies and disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The VA Boston Healthcare System assisted by providing care to Veterans and civilians in the community, therefore, Karen participated in numerous off-site COVID-19 testing. “If the Veterans cannot come to the VA to get tested then we go to the Veterans to deliver this service,” she said.  Along with her team, Karen swabbed Veterans at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, just outside of Boston, as well as at other Veteran nursing homes in Eastern Massachusetts.

“The most meaningful moment of this experience was when we visited Chelsea Soldiers’ Home,” Karen said. “This was our most vulnerable Veteran population. Due to their age and multiple comorbidities, they would have the worst outcomes if they got infected. They were too weak to go out to get tested. We went to all the Veterans' rooms and got them tested so they could get the appropriate care as soon as possible if they came back positive for COVID-19. It was sad and joyful at the same time. Although the Veterans were vulnerable, we gave them a sense of control by bringing the tests to them. This was a way that we could serve them at the height of this pandemic. It shows our commitment to serve those who have served.”

“People are very anxious and fearful if they get COVID-19. It affects everyone on many levels -- it can affect your livelihood, personal safety and those of their loved ones. It is very satisfying when Veterans and employees come to me and thank me.” Karen said. “They are happy that they are negative so they could go on with their lives. They also thank me when they come back positive so they can quarantine immediately and have a plan in place if their symptoms got worse. Knowledge is power -- knowing if you are COVID-19 positive or negative gives you some sense of control even if we currently do not have any cure or vaccine for COVID-19.”

When Karen was asked to describe her worst experience, she shared that, “Back in March, we had days when it was very cold. With the low wind chill factor, we were out in the tent freezing. Sometimes, it would rain and our shoes got wet,” Karen said. “We are nurses so we improvised “MacGyver-style” and taped the tent in order to continue to conduct the tests despite the freezing temperatures and rain. I am grateful for being a mail carrier. It prepared me to do my job in the COVID-19 testing tent. It taught me to be ready and be very tolerant for whatever the weather may be. Hey, I did it for 19 years and 7 months. Freezing for several hours is no big deal for me.”

In terms of safety, a nurse testing for swabbing must be prepared. “Learn the right way by using evidence-based practice and wear the right PPE. Practice, practice, practice, Karen said. “Explain every step to the patient. Let them know what they will feel and assure them that the discomfort will only last for a few seconds”, Karen said. “Give them emotional support as needed. We need to be cognizant that a lot of our Veterans have PTSD. We need to take it slow, explain every step slowly and allay their fears. Sometimes kind words and a gentle approach to show that you care goes a long way.”

“Good bedside manners matter. As a nurse, show your patients that you care,” Karen said. “Experience is wisdom. What you learned from your past career and what you develop as your professional values will show no matter where you are- as a nurse, a teacher or a mail carrier. “People are resilient,” she adds. “Working at the height of the pandemic as a COVID-19 swabber made me learn a new level of compassion due to the uniqueness and magnitude of the pandemic.”

Karen continues to swab Veterans and VA employees while teaching nurses, medical students and physicians how to conduct a nasal swab test for COVID-19. As of August 6, 2020, Karen has swabbed over 3,000 people but who’s counting?





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National NOVA Board Member Spotlight

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020



Ernestine L. Goode, MSA, BSN, RN, CRRN, CBIS

Former Chief Nurse, Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders/Polytrauma

Central Virginia VA Health Care System, Richmond, VA

NOVA Board Director, Nurse Emeritus                                               

Ernestine L. Goode, MSA, BSN, RN, CRRN, CBIS is serving as a Director on the national NOVA Board, It is official…she is now the Former Chief Nurse, Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders/Polytrauma at the Central Virginia VA Health Care System and is a new NOVA Nurse Emeritus. Her tenure with the VHA spans over thirty-three years, beginning in 1987 until she “dropped the mic” on June 30, 2020. 

Ernestine began her nursing career as a Licensed Practical Nurse on a Stroke Rehab and Community Placement Unit. She later moved in 1989 to the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)., where she was awarded a Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Scholarship to return to school to eventually obtain a Registered Nurse license. Ernestine worked full time while in nursing school and obtained a nursing diploma in 1993 from Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg, Virginia. She worked on the three units in Spinal Cord Injury over seven years and then transferred to Critical Care in 1995, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Ernestine obtained a BSN in 2000 from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

After working in Critical Care for seven years, Ernestine moved into management in 2002. At this time, Ernestine was pursuing a Master’s Degree in Administration, with a minor in Health Services Administration. She obtained her Master’s Degree from Central Michigan University in 2002. Her first management position was as Nurse Manager, House Staff Clinical Resources and the Outpatient Blood Lab, where she had oversight of the inpatient and outpatient services. Ernestine Assumed her next management position, Nurse Manager, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2004. Later, she moved to Primary Care as a Case Manager in 2005. In 2006, Ernestine became the Nurse Manager of the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Unit-1U where she worked until 2016; and became Chief Nurse of the Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders/Polytrauma. In this capacity, she served as the Chairperson of the Nurse Professional Standards Board, Licensed Practical Nurse Standards Board, and the Nursing Assistants Standards Board.

In 2017, Ernestine received the NOVA Excellence Award and was elected to the Director position on the national NOVA Board. In her role as NOVA Director, she is currently serving as Chairperson of the NOVA History Committee and. Ernestine is responsible for retaining, organizing and preserving NOVA’s historical records. Her retirement plans include advocating for racial justice by being involved with the eradication of systemic racism. Ernestine, may this next chapter of your life bring you endless time to do what’s most important to you!



             Celebrating Ernestine’s Retirement          

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Member of the Month

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020


Cynthia Solomon Ramos, ACNP-BC

Richmond VAMC, Richmond, VA

NOVA Chapter 420

Hello NOVA Colleagues! I am delighted for the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Cindy, and I am a Nurse Practitioner (NP) at the Richmond VA Medical Center and Secretary/Treasurer of my local NOVA Chapter 420. I have been working at the Richmond VA since 2009; initially in Hepatology research through McGuire Research Institute and then as a VA employee in the Hepatology Department starting in June of 2010. As a Hepatology NP, I was working under Medicine Service and noticed significant disparities with communication between my service line and Nursing Service. I learned about the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA) in 2014 through a nurse colleague that invited me to join. I felt this was exactly what I needed to help me better understand and build a bridge between my service line and Nursing Service. The foundation building, support, and collaboration provided by this organization far exceeded any of my expectations. 

My path to a career in nursing began with a childhood dream. I owe the highest gratitude to my God, family, friends, colleagues, and community for a wealth of support and guidance allowing my dream to come to fruition. I attended nursing school at John Tyler Community College and after graduation I worked as a floor nurse on a step-down Cardiology unit at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS). My employer had tuition assistance which was a great incentive to continue my nursing education. However, it was sheer diligence, conviction, and the support of others that allowed me to complete an accelerated Associates degree to Master's degree program, the Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner track.  Soon after passing my boards, I was afforded the opportunity to join the McGuire Research Institute as part of the Hepatology team. The primary focus was on Hepatitis C treatments and decompensated cirrhosis. This experience primed me for the transition to a Nurse Practitioner in the Hepatology Department at the Richmond VAMC. I have been privileged to lead the Liver Cancer Tumor Board, manage patients with decompensated cirrhosis, and often guide their care through their final days. This was a great joy and passion for me; however, after 10 years I felt a change was needed. Given my liver cancer background, I transitioned to the Hematology-Oncology department to help establish a Survivorship Program and assist with the daily management of Oncology patients. I heavily rely on the attending physicians, the Oncology nurses, Psych-Oncologist, Pharmacists, and Medical Support Associates to provide excellent care to our Veterans. I am grateful for the communication, guidance, and collaboration the Oncology team provides. 

I feel the same way about NOVA. There were times when our system seemed so broken that I looked outside our system for other opportunities. The immense support, collegial relationships, and encouragement I receive from NOVA not only helps me stay steadfast to the population I love to serve but also propels me to continue moving forward in my career. My experiences with NOVA confirm that the organizational Mission is not simply words but rather is action in progress. 

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Heard on the Hill

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020


Teresa Morris, Director, Advocacy & Government Relations

Greetings NOVA Members –

September has arrived. We are in the final weeks of the 116th Congress and about 50 days ahead of the November election.

As we inch closer to the 2020 Election, NOVA will be putting together an informational Get Out the Vote campaign so tune in and watch all of our social media sites in the coming weeks. 

Prior to the publishing of this newsletter, NOVA submitted our priorities and views on mental health legislation being considered in the House before the Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC). As has been reported, suicide prevention and mental health has been the number one issue that the VA, Committees and the VSO community have been advocating for in this Congress. We stated in our letter to HVAC Chairman Mark Takano, and Ranking Member Phil Roe that any package must include military cultural competency and other training for community care providers – training equal to the vigorous model VA has in place for their employees. We also noted the importance of funding for any new and enhanced programs, to include monies for hiring of mental health providers, suicide prevention coordinators, and counselors. No program or service works without clinical staff to provide the care to our Veterans. The recorded hearing can be found on the HVAC website at:

Our statement is on the NOVA website front page – Under Latest News

I hope many of you had the chance to engage with your members of Congress while on August recess.  I cannot stress how important it is for all of us to continue advocating for VA to enable them to have the tools you need to take care of all Veterans.

NOVA continues to remind Congress the importance of passing a robust budget for the VA to ensure the delivery of timely, quality healthcare and other services for Veterans. We continue to support and stand by the recommendations of the Independent Budget (IB).

The House passed their Military Construction/VA Appropriations bill in May with funding totaling $104.8 billion, of which $90 billion goes to Medical Care accounts. The Senate held its hearing on the budget in July - considerable late this year- with Secretary Robert Wilkie testifying as to what he needs to run the entire VA system (VHS, VBA, NCA). 

As it stands now, it is looking like that we are headed for a continuous resolution (CR) before the election to keep the government running into 2021. Although VA has fared better than most federal agencies in budget proposals and appropriations, the real measure should be how well the funding matches the demand for Veterans’ benefits and services. Funding must consider community care, emergency care and internal VA needs. NOVA believes that VA continues to be the premier integrated health care system that understands and puts Veterans first.  A robust budget will assure that it can continue that work.

Thank you again for all you do and for your heroism every day! 

Stay Tuned!

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Celebrating Spinal Cord Injury Day

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020


Kelly D. Skinner, DNP, APRN, NP-C, GNP-BC, CRRN, WCC, CFCN

VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA 

NOVA Chapter 226

‘Spinal Cord Injury Day’ is celebrated on September 5th every year with the intention to increase awareness amongst the general public. This year’s slogan is “Covid-19 and SCI: Staying well”. According to Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Figures at a Glance there are approximately 2,940,000 persons with a spinal cord injury living in the United States; about 17,810 new cases each year. The common causes of spinal cord injury are: motor vehicle accidents, falls, acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds), sports/recreational activities, and medical-surgical complications. Becoming spinal cord injured is considered one of the most traumatic and life-altering events a person will ever face. Spinal cord injury can result in partial or complete paralysis and impaired sensation below the level of the injury with little chance of recovery. There are also other physical, psychosocial, sexual and vocational consequences for the spinal cord injured person, not to mention the economic burden.

Spinal Cord Injury Prevention is a global effort. By increasing awareness and taking precautions to decrease risks, the incidence of spinal cord injury can be diminished. Please enjoy this video created by the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS). Feel free to share it with others to help spread the word.

Nurses working in the specialty of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) deserve special recognition. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the compassion and dedication of the NOVA nurses at the VA Boston Healthcare System who continue to carry-out the SCI Center Mission: To promote the health, independence, quality of life, and productivity of Veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders throughout their lives. SCI Nurses are integral members of the rehabilitation team who know the importance of promoting functional independence with this patient-population. They help the SCI Veterans live life to the fullest by encouraging them to never give up, persevere and celebrate every milestone.

Happy Spinal Cord Injury Day!

Special Shout-out to NOVA Nurses Working in SCI at the VA Boston Healthcare System

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AMSUS The Society of Federal Health Professionals

Posted By Ashley Lovelace, Monday, September 21, 2020

Sharon A. Johnson, MSN, RN

Past National NOVA President

Nurse Emeritus

I attended my last NOVA Official Board Meeting as Immediate Past President in December 2019. During that meeting I was asked if I would speak to the AMSUS Sustaining Members in March 2020. As a new Nurse Emeritus trying to adjust to my new normal, I accepted without hesitation without knowing who or what AMSUS was. So, the research began.

AMSUS The Society of Federal Health Professionals is a non-profit member based educational and professional development association serving the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, federal health professionals and their families, our industry partners and advocates for advancing health for all- particularly through interagency collaboration. AMSUS supports the federal health professional and honors the legacy of federal medicine’s tremendous impact in advancing and improving health for all Americans and international coalition partners.

The invitation to speak was extended by John DiMaggio who is the Chairman of the AMSUS Staining Members. AMSUS created the Sustaining Member (SM) Section in 1953 to bring together private healthcare industry representatives with key Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Public Health Service decision makers. The members are companies providing solutions and services to the federal government that are committed to the advancement of Federal Health Professionals. Communications and education forums with presentations on a broad selection of opportunities are provided for member companies to see, hear and interact with leaders from the Federal Health System (e.g. Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, Indian Health Service, Health & Human Services) in an environment that fosters cooperation and the sharing of ideas for the betterment of both the member companies and these Federal agencies. 

I met John many years ago at a NOVA Annual Meeting where GlaxoSmithKline, his company at the time, was a sponsor. He served on the NOVA Foundation and has continued to be a friend to NOVA, as well as an advocate for our Veterans. Whatever transition John makes, he takes NOVA with him to ensure that we get the exposure needed to provide education about our organization. John afforded NOVA this opportunity to present at the AMSUS meeting to reach a new audience and possibly develop exciting collaborations.

The COVID-19 crisis altered the delivery of the presentation but didn’t stop it. I spoke virtually to the AMSUS Staining Members on August 26, 2020. It was a privilege to once again represent NOVA and share what VA Nurses do.

I continue to be proud of the work NOVA nurses do every day on the front lines to ensure that our Veterans get the excellent care they deserve.

Be Well and Stay Safe!

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