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Renewable energy share in power generation – President misled by advisers

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Continued from yesterday

by Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri
PROPOSALS FOR DEVELOPING
RE PROJECTS

In 2017, an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) has made a set of recommendations to the Cabinet to install in the short term several utility scale solar PV systems, wind energy systems and biomass energy systems, and these were approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. These projects included solar power projects comprising three large utility scale projects at Pooneryne (800 MW) and two sets at Syambalanduwa (2×100 MW) along with 300,000 roof top systems providing 300 MW and several small-scale systems each below 10 MW adding to 500 MW in places of high solar insolation. The building of a 100 MW floating solar PV system was previously approved by the Cabinet. These projects will add up to a total capacity of 1,900 MW which could generate about 3,329 GWh annually assuming 20 % plant factor. Cabinet approvals were granted on 16.12.2016 for building a Solar Power Park of capacity 100 MW in Siyambalaanduwa.

The CEB has already initiated development of a wind energy farm at Mannar and plans to develop more in the Jaffna district. A total capacity of 650 MW is to be developed generating nearly 1,708 GWh of electricity. In addition, a SLSEA Report dated 27.03.2019, says that several proposals for developing RE projects submitted since 2016 by investors received the approval of the SLSEA, but these have been held up as the CEB has not agreed to sign the necessary power purchase agreements with them, on grounds that that they were not selected after calling tenders as required in the Electricity Act. These projects held back by the CEB were expected to add 3,052 MW of RE capacity generating 6,923 GWh of energy annually, comprising 925 GWh from mini-hydro plants, 3553 GWh from solar plants, 2063 GWh from wind plants, 237 GWh from biomass plants and 145 GWh from waste-to-energy plants.

Section 13 of the Electricity Act says “requirement to submit a tender on the publication of a notice under this subsection shall not be applicable in respect of any new generation plant or to the expansion of any existing generation plant that is being developed on a permit issued by the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority, established by the Sustainable Energy Authority Act, No. 35 of 2007 under section 18 of that Act for the generation of electricity through renewable energy sources and required to be operated at the standardized tariff and is governed by a Standardized Power Purchase Agreement approved by the Cabinet of Ministers or on an offer received from a foreign sovereign Government to the Government of Sri Lanka, for which the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers has been obtained”. Hence, denial of approval by the CEB for RE projects for which permits have been issued by SLSEA is a misinterpretation of the Act. The President has given clear instructions that such barriers against the private sector involving in developing RE projects be removed.

A summary of the above RE projects that could be developed by 2030 long with the commissioned and permitted RE projects are shown in Table 5.

It is seen that the total generation potential from RE sources including those already installed, projects for which permits have been issued, utility scale projects approved by the Cabinet and projects permitted by the SLSEA and awaiting acceptance by the CEB add up to 15,026 GWh annually. This is 4,670 GWh short of the generation required from RE sources to reach the target of 80%, which is 20,500 GWh as shown in Table 4. This can be achieved by installing additional solar PV plants, wind power plants and biomass plants, with generation shared among them each share depending on the availability of resources and economies.

POTENTIAL FOR DEVELOPING
RE PROJECTS

Sri Lanka has a large number of reservoirs both ancient and recently built covering an area about 43,000 ha in the North Central and Eastern Provinces where the solar insolation is high (Arjuna Atlas). Since solar PV panels require about 1 ha for every 1 MW of installed capacity, installation of solar panels covering at least 10% of the area of the reservoirs has the potential to generate about 7,000 GWh of electricity annually from 4,000 MW of installed capacity. This could be achieved with the concurrence of the Irrigation Department (ID).

An all island Wind Energy Resource Atlas of Sri Lanka was developed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of USA in 2003, indicates nearly 5,000 km2 of windy areas with good-to-excellent wind resource potential in Sri Lanka. About 4,100 km2 of the total windy area is on land and about 700 km2 is in lagoons. The windy land represents about 6% of the total land area (65,600 km2) of Sri Lanka. Using a conservative assumption of 5 MW per km2, this windy land could support almost 20,000 MW of potential installed capacity (SLSEA Website). 

Last year, the Cabinet declared 2022 as the year of Biomass Energy with the objective of promoting energy generation from biomass. Already, SLSEA is pursuing a project funded partly by UNDP and FAO for “Promoting Sustainable Biomass Energy Production and Modern Bio-Energy Technologies” with the specific objective of removing obstacles to the realization of sustainable biomass plantation, increase of market share of biomass energy generation. Currently, a survey is being undertaken to identify land available and suitable for energy plantations. It is expected that by 2030, biomass technologies could add about 500 GWh of energy to the system.

It is clear therefore that Sri Lanka has the resources to develop RE projects exceeding the amount required to meet the 80% share in total electricity generation by 2030. Coordination and cooperation among stakeholder institutes such as CEB, SLSEA and ID are prerequisites for realizing this target.

FINANCIAL BARRIERS AGAINST
ACHIEVING THE TARGETS

It may be recalled that in 2015, nations adopted the Paris Agreement at the Climate Change Summit Conference held in Paris, undertaking voluntary reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to global warming and in turn causing climate change. Concurrently, the Conference announced that “developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in meeting their obligations under the Paris Agreement”. Though the Cabinet has taken a decision to build 650 MW of wind power plants and 1,900 MW of solar power plants in 2017, there has been no progress possibly due to lack of finances or investors for implementing the projects.

The easiest way of reducing GHG emissions is to shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources for the generation of energy. Hence, it is possible to get financial assistance from various financial mechanisms set up under the Climate Change Convention (CCC) to defray costs incurred in shifting to renewable energy sources, for which proposals need to be submitted to the CCC Secretariat through the Ministry of Environment who is the focal point for CCC in Sri Lanka. It is the writer’s understanding that Sri Lanka has not sought any financial assistance from these sources.

As a side event at the CCC held in Paris in 2015, a programme called the International Solar Alliance (ISA), was launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France on November 30, 2015, with the objective of scaling up solar energy applications, reducing the cost of solar power generation through aggregation of demand for solar finance, technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity building. The ISA aims to pave the way for future solar generation, storage and technologies for member countries’ needs by mobilizing over USD 1000 billion by 2030, according to the India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) website (https://mnre.gov.in/isa/). Sri Lanka is also a signatory to the agreement signed at the launching ceremony.

It was reported in the Sunday Island of 26.07.2020 that India’s state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Ltd has offered to set up a solar energy park in Sri Lanka under the aegis of ISA. Being a member of ISA, Sri Lanka should welcome India’s offer to build a solar park in Sri Lanka under ISA. Under the terms of ISA, India only facilitates sourcing of funding and services and the host country has the ownership for the project, who is required to do the preliminary ground work to seek funding. According to a reliable source, the CEB is not keen in pursuing this offer as it is not a tendered project. However, there is provision in the Act as shown above to accept this offer if it is deemed to be a project offered by the Government of India which it is. This again is a misinterpretation of the Act.

PROBLEMS FACING IN EXPANSION
OF RE SYSTEMS

When more and more RE systems are built, their integration into the national grid may pose some problems. One is the rapid variation of the output of solar and wind systems. With the development of software that could forecast these variations on-line, it is possible to increase the penetration of RE systems into the grid. If necessary, CEB may acquire this technology from any foreign country who has already implemented high penetration of RE into their system. It is also important that all solar and wind plants strictly conform to specifications, particularly in respect of voltage and harmonics control.

Another is the need for storage for saving the electricity generated during the daytime by solar systems for use at night time. There are several options for this too, among which are using high capacity batteries, build pump-storage reservoirs and generate hydrogen from day-time power.

A report by JICA on Electricity Sector Master Plan Study in Sri Lanka released in March, 2018 considered the option of generation with 100% renewable energy sources by 2040, recommending that to meet the deficit of power arising out of continuing high cloud cover for several days, storage batteries need to be installed at an estimated cost of USD 1,000 million which may have life-time of only 5 years.

Another JICA report on Development Planning on Optimal Power Generation for Peak Demand in Sri Lanka released in February 2015 considered building a pump-storage system with capacity 600 MW on Maha Oya near Aranayaka with a head of about 500 m at a cost of USD 700 million. This is also included in the CEB Plan.

However, another option that could be implemented without incurring any additional costs is to utilize the existing hydropower reservoirs where energy generated by solar systems could be stored. This is by avoiding generation of hydro power by an amount equivalent to that generated by solar systems during daytime. This saved hydro power is then available for using during night time (see article by Chandre Dharmawardana in The Island of 15.07.2020). The saved energy will get enhanced due to prevention of evaporation when the reservoirs are covered with solar panels.

There is much interest among developed countries to use hydrogen as an energy carrier and for storage. In a report published by CSIRO in Australia on National Hydrogen Roadmap in 2018, the possibility of generating hydrogen utilizing Australia’s vast potential for RE for both local application and for export was considered. Hydrogen systems can provide both electricity grid stability (i.e. seconds to hourly storage) and grid reliability (i.e. seasonal storage) services. Hydrogen generated from stand-alone solar and wind plants along with fuel cells can be used to generate electricity as and when necessary.

A third problem often cited by CEB is the lack of capacity of the transmission system to accommodate energy generated by RE systems as planned. According to the CEB, installing more than 20 MW of wind capacity in any given region may adversely impact local grid stability and power quality (NREL Study, 2003). This problem could be solved by improving the substations in outstations and increasing the capacity of transmission lines connected to them.

It was shown in Table 4 that in order to achieve 80% of generation from RE sources, it is necessary to deviate from the CEB’s LTGE Plan as shown in Table 4. However, the 2013 Electricity Act requires that any addition of capacity should be done while meeting the requirements of the CEB LTGE Plan. Hence, either the CEB Plan needs to be revised or the Act needs to be amended. Otherwise, the CEB may not consider implementing the adjusted scenario even though it meets the President’s policy.

CONCLUSION

With the existing and permitted RE projects along with those approved by the Cabinet and SLSEA, it will be possible to generate electricity 4,600 GWh short of the amount required to meet the target of 80% of generation from RE sources. This amount could easily be generated from a combination of solar, wind and biomass systems. Hence, there is absolutely no need to revise the President’s target of 80% to 70% as decided at the meeting held on 14.09.2020.

It is also essential to explore the possibilities of sourcing funds for adopting RE sources in place of fossil fuels which are available internationally because of the saving of GHG emissions. This will reduce the country’s burden on financing the RE projects. Perhaps it is time the President gets advisers with commitment to green energy who will give him the correct advice. It is a pity that when there is political will it is absent among the professionals concerned.


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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development

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There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.

The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.

To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.

Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.

It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.

All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.

Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.

If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.

In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.

However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.

It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.

The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.

It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.

A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.

Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.

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Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka

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By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.

The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.

We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.

This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.

Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!

At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.

One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.

It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!

ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!

The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.

When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!

I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.

I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.

I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.

Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!

I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.

Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.

We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.

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Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?

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Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!

To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.

Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.

The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..

How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!

If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.

And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!

Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.

Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.

With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.

I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.

He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.

Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.

He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!

I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:

“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.

“There is no science to beat common sense.”

But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!

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