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Articles from 2020 In March

How to talk to essential employees during COVID-19 crisis

How to talk to essential employees during COVID-19 crisis

Even as America presses “pause” on traditional workplace environments, many in our nation’s workforce are still headed out every day to keep essential services, like healthcare, and supplies, like food, operating as smoothly as possible. For employers and employees, these are unique times. Keeping a team engaged that is concerned about their own health, and the health of their loved ones, while they also are fearful of the economic volatility, is incredibly difficult. Emotions may run anywhere from gratitude for being employed to frustration for having to work, and those emotions may change hour by hour.

There are a few things smart business leaders can do with communications to help their teams during this time:

  • Over-communicate. But do it in short, measured bursts. There’s fatigue with the amount of information people are receiving from so many sources. To be most effective, keep it simple and direct. Incorporate both a “push” strategy (distributing information proactively) and a “pull” strategy (providing resource locations for employees to access when needed).
  • Incorporate new platforms. Text messaging apps may be the easiest way to reach a lot of hourly workers quickly. Another way to quickly reach employees is to set up a private page on your website where people can go for information.
  • Provide extra support. Consider their special circumstances and identify resources to support them. Perhaps they have a loved one with a compromised immune system. Maybe they’re struggling to find childcare. Share resources and support them to help navigate their unique challenges.
  • Clarity is critical. Be crystal clear on your employee expectations, benefits and other personnel matters during this time. What are they supposed to do if they or a loved one falls ill? What is your PTO, sick time and absentee policy? What have you done to change or enhance benefits to address this unique time? Now is not the time for rigidity; flexibility should drive as much of human resources decision-making as possible.
  • Little things mean the most. Bring in lunch for your team. Send everyone home with a grocery gift card. Perhaps you establish an employee “crisis bonus” that will be granted at the end of the pandemic. The extras don’t need to be extravagant; meaningful small gestures will have value at this time.
  • Focus on health and safety. Let your team know that even as they come to work, you’re putting extra precautions in place to keep your workplace safe. And then actually do it. Encourage them to assist in this effort as well and to identify ways for further health and safety improvements. They need to know that not only their work has value to you, but that they as individuals have value, and that you want to assure their well-being.
  • Lean in on your values. Ultimately, everything that employers do right now is about caring for those for whom they have responsibility. That means both their physical well-being, as well as their mental health. Remind them that they are a treasured and valued part of your company, and remind them that their role during this time is particularly critical. Connect what they’re doing to the “greater good”, e.g., feeding people, keeping the supply chain going, assuring open transportation channels, providing healthcare to those who need it.
  • Do what’s right. Follow the rules established by local, state or federal government orders. Be patient with your team. Remember that the same fears that you and your own family are experiencing are the ones that your employees are also experiencing. Reassurance, when possible, about your industry, your company, and their jobs will be welcomed.
  • Help them see that the other side of this uncertain time will come. For many the situation right now feels like forever. They’re working long hours while dealing with an emotional roller coaster in their personal lives. Being a strong leader means helping the team see that the future remains firmly in focus. Reinforce the company’s long-term vision.

The bottom line is that employers need to step up their communicating and engaging like never before. These recommendations will help make sure that engagement is as effective as it can be and position your company to transition well through and to the end of this crisis.

Hinda Mitchell is president of the Inspire PR Group.

Penn Vet researchers seek answers in racehorse injuries

Shutterstock horses racing

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) announced the launch of a novel study exploring possible effects resulting from the combined use of furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, and bisphosphonates in equine athletes.

Led by Dr. Mary Robinson, assistant professor of veterinary pharmacology and director of the Equine Pharmacology Laboratory at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, this study is poised to be the first comprehensive analysis of the two drugs that, when used concurrently could be capable of diminishing bone integrity and compromising cardiac function in racehorses. These effects have the potential to contribute to catastrophic injuries on the racetrack.

“The beauty of this study is that it will use a multi-disciplinary approach to assess the interaction between these two drugs that we know are administered to racehorses,” said Robinson. “By coupling our state-of-the art imaging technologies with the scope of expertise among the other investigators on this project, we will be able to produce solid, unbiased data that will address some of the unknowns surrounding the use of these medications.”

Nearly 85% of racehorses in the U.S. receive furosemide as a preventive therapy for a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, Penn Vet said. Also used in human medicine to treat heart conditions, the drug is known to cause a short-term loss of calcium and increase the risk of fractures in human patients. However, because horses can quickly recover from a calcium deficit, furosemide alone is unlikely to be the root cause for catastrophic, racing-related breakdowns that, according to The Jockey Club Equine Injury Database, occur at a rate of approximately 1.6 in 1,000 starts.

Exploring interaction unknowns

A team comprised of 13 Penn Vet researchers will explore the largely unknown effects of a class of drugs called bisphosphonates, particularly when being used concurrently with furosemide.

Intended to preserve the integrity of bone, bisphosphonates are commonly used in elderly patients to treat osteoporosis. When administered to young, growing animals, however, the drug may have adverse effects by preventing bone from properly adapting to the forces applied during training — such as those experienced when a horse is at a gallop, Penn Vet said.

Because bisphosphonates can linger in the bone for at least one year after the administration of a single dose, there is a heightened chance for interaction with furosemide in horses who are undergoing training. Bisphosphonates have also been associated with increased risks of heart conditions in humans, including atrial fibrillation, ventricular arrhythmias and alterations in heart rate variability.

Diagnostic imaging

A collaborative study at its core, the Penn Vet team will cross-examine other facets related to the use of these substances in racehorses, including pioneering new understandings of advanced imaging systems such as New Bolton Center’s standing robotic computed tomography (CT) and, in collaboration with the University of California-Davis’s Dr. Mathieu Spriet, a new standing positron emission tomography (PET) system.

The system, which is identical to the one already in place at Santa Anita Park in California, will make Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center the second veterinary hospital in the world to implement the use of an equine PET scanner.

“This amazing imaging technology is going to be really instrumental in helping us assess the effects — or lack thereof — of these drugs on the bone,” Robinson said. “It is the most sensitive technique that we have, from an imaging perspective, to look in detail at a horse’s legs and see what’s going on metabolically.”

“The [PET scan] modality is going to be impactful on a measurable, molecular level. There’s no superimposition — or interference — of the structures we are imaging, so we can definitively note any changes in bone turnover in areas as precise as two square millimeters,” added Dr. Kate Wulster, assistant professor of clinical large animal diagnostic imaging at Penn Vet.

“The real beauty of using both the PET scan and our robotic CT system in tandem is that we can confidently identify any present morphologic or shape abnormalities within the bone that we know could predispose a horse to fracture. Together, they’re going to give us a remarkable amount of information about what is or isn’t going on in these horses,” Wulster said.

The research team will also be accumulating findings into an innovative, data-driven platform that will be invaluable to objectively assessing national trends in racehorse-related injuries, Penn Vet said.


Partnering with Penn Vet’s Extracellular Vesicle Core (EV Core), the first of its kind in the U.S., the research team will also explore the promising frontier of using EVs in blood or other samples to detect illicit use of bisphosphonates, which are presently undetectable in the blood of a horse after 30 days.

EVs are membrane-enclosed nanoparticles released from all cell types and play an integral role in intercellular communication, Penn Vet explained. Because they possess tissue-specific characteristics representative of the cells in which they came from, they hold the potential to provide non-invasive, rapid diagnostic solutions to test for the presence of illegitimate drug use.

“The field of EV research is a vastly promising and explosive area of study. By harnessing the unique communicative power of EVs, we hope to redefine how we can utilize blood samples in order to proactively safeguard the health and well-being of these tremendous athletes,” said Dr. Andrew Hoffman, the Gilbert S. Kahn dean of veterinary medicine and principal investigator of the EV Core Facility.

“Beyond detecting illegitimate substance use, these biomarkers also offer the means of identifying otherwise indiscernible, but significant, changes in the horse’s biological health that could serve as warning signs of an increased risk for catastrophic injury,” Hoffman added.

“Our hope is to eventually harness the information carried in these vesicles to develop a hand-held, stall-side diagnostic tool that could be used on race day to make sure horses are healthy enough to compete safely, as well as by trainers in the field to continuously evaluate any changes in their horse’s well-being, and when additional veterinary care may be needed,” Robinson said.

While efforts for this research project are underway, the study is estimated to take two years to complete.

FEEDSTUFFS IN FOCUS: Special Report: Frontline observations from animal food industry in COVID-19 battle


Flatten the curve. That is the term of the day as the nation responds to the spread of COVID-19, a deadly virus of concern to human lives, particularly the elderly and immune compromised.

The staff at the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) has been actively monitoring developments and working to get the animal food industry’s voice heard in the many regulatory and policy discussions taking place.

In this episode, Feedstuffs editor Sarah Muirhead talks with Leah Wilkinson, AFIA’s vice president of public policy and education, to find out how the industry has been preparing for COVID-19. Among other things, they discuss what animal food manufacturers are doing to protect the health of their employees and their customers while continuing to keep our livestock, poultry and companion animals fed. 

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, AFIA has launched a members-only webpage to help member companies prepare facilities & staff to respond to the emerging public health threat. It can be found at afia.org/coronavirus.

Recent Feedstuffs In Focus Episodes  on COVID-19

For more information on this and other stories, visit Feedstuffs online.
Follow Feedstuffs on Twitter @Feedstuffs, or join the conversation via Facebook.


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COVID-19 aid package offers assistance to rural America

Mark Wilson/Getty Images Capitol-building

The Senate advanced by a vote of 96-0 its Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in a vote late Wednesday night in the third tranche of assistance offered by Congress as it attempts to respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19). For farmers, the final $2 trillion package includes some specific requests, such as additional lending authority to for the Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) and livestock and disaster assistance.

The COVID-19 impact on agriculture includes a rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closure of ethanol plants, the dramatic decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand and the reduction in direct-to-consumer sales.

Ahead of the final deal, 48 agriculture groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, joined together in calling on Congress to expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s borrowing authority under the CCC. The agreement includes a $14 billion increase in USDA’s borrowing authority under the CCC, consistent with a long history of the CCC being tapped to responsibly support agriculture in times of crisis, and $9.5 billion to assist specialty crop producers, direct retail farmers and livestock operators.

“The aid to farmers in this package, including funding for the CCC and the Office of the Secretary, will allow USDA to begin crafting an appropriate relief program for agriculture,” American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall said.

The bill also includes direct payments to individuals ($1,200 per individual or $2,400 per married couple), $130 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for local and state governments and $300 billion in financial aid for small businesses. Additionally, it allocates funding for nutrition assistance programs, rural broadband and rural health resources.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said in a statement, “The relief package will provide stability for our farmers and ensure the American people have a safe and stable food supply. Our bipartisan agreement includes targeted assistance to farmers who are experiencing severe financial losses during the pandemic, including fruit and vegetable growers, dairy farmers and local food producers.”

Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa.), said, “For days, I worked with my Democratic colleagues to craft key tax- and health-related provisions as well as the recovery checks and unemployment insurance. It’s a bipartisan product that, regrettably, was hijacked and delayed because of partisan politics, but the important thing is that it’s finally approved in the Senate. I urge the speaker of the House to immediately pass this critical relief for the American people, even if it means ending their week-long recess. The needless delays in the Senate have run out the clock. There’s no more time to waste."

The legislation includes S. 1089, the Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2019 and the Priority Zoonotic Animal Drug designation -- a zoonotic animal drug priority of Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.). Roberts’ zoonotic animal drug priority expedites Food & Drug Administration approval of animal drugs that treat zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, like the novel coronavirus, through a new designation.

“I’m glad to see two of my key priorities included in the coronavirus legislation. The Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2019 will make it easier to purchase medications through health savings accounts, which will help stop the spread of the coronavirus by keeping those who are experiencing mild symptoms out of the doctor’s office," Roberts said. “The Priority Zoonotic Animal Drug designation will help treat future zoonotic diseases, like the coronavirus, before they cause serious harm to humans.”

Stabenow said more is needed. “While this bill contains critical relief, I am deeply disappointed that including additional food assistance for children, families and seniors did not have bipartisan support. I will continue to fight to get families the help they need during this crisis,” she said.

In a statement, Stabenow outlined specifically what the CARES Act provides:

Relief for farmers and ranchers

  • $9.5 billion dedicated disaster fund to help farmers who are experiencing financial losses from the coronavirus crisis, including targeted support for fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and livestock farmers and local food producers.
  • $14 billion to fund the farm bill’s farm safety net through the CCC.
  • Eligibility for farmers and agricultural and rural businesses to receive up to $10 million in small business interruption loans from eligible lenders, including Farm Credit institutions, through the Small Business Administration. Repayment forgiveness will be provided for funds used for payroll, rent or mortgage and utility bills.
  • $3 million to increase capacity at USDA's Farm Service Agency to meet increased demand from farmers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Assistance for small towns and rural communities

  • $1 billion available in guaranteed loans to help rural businesses weather the economic downturn.
  • $100 billion to hospitals, health care providers and facilities, including those in rural areas.
  • $25 million for telemedicine tools to help rural patients access medical care, no matter where they live.
  • $100 million for high-speed internet expansion in small towns and rural communities.
  • More than $70 million to help the U.S. Forest Service serve rural communities and reduce the spread of COVID-19 through personal protective equipment for first responders and cleaning of facilities.

Protections for consumers and the food supply

  • $55 million for inspection and quarantine at U.S. borders to protect against invasive pests and animal disease.
  • $33 million for overtime and temporary food safety inspectors to protect America’s food supply at meat processing plants.
  • $45 million to ensure that quality produce and meat reaches grocery stores through increased support for the Agricultural Marketing Service.
  • $1.5 million to expedite Environmental Protection Agency approvals of disinfectants needed to control the spread of COVID-19 .

Food access for families

  • $15.8 billion to fund food assistance changes made in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • $9 billion to fund child nutrition improvements made in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • $450 million to provide food banks with additional resources for food and distribution.
  • $100 million for food distribution in tribal communities to provide facility improvements, equipment upgrades and food purchases.

Coronavirus impact on imports expected to be longer than expected

Tryaging-iStock-Thinkstock Cargo ships and planes
US beef export levels have been exceptional this year and by all appearances will continue to help US beef prices throughout 2017.

The coronavirus outbreak is expected to have a longer and larger impact on imports at major U.S. retail container ports than previously believed as factory shutdowns and travel restrictions in China continue to affect production, according to the Global Port Tracker report released March 9 by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“There are still a lot of unknowns to fully determine the impact of the coronavirus on the supply chain,” NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “As factories in China continue to come back online, products are now flowing again. But there are still issues affecting cargo movement, including the availability of truck drivers to move cargo to Chinese ports. Retailers are working with both their suppliers and transportation providers to find paths forward to minimize disruption.”

“Now that we are in the coronavirus environment, uncertainty has expanded exponentially,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Our projections are based on the optimistic view that by the end of March or early April some sort of normalcy will have returned to trade.”

This month’s report comes as a separate NRF survey of members found 40% of respondents said they are seeing disruptions to their supply chains from the virus and that another 26 % expect to see disruptions as the situation continues.

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.82 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 5.7 % from December but down 3.8 % from unusually high numbers a year ago related to U.S. tariffs on goods from China. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

February was estimated at 1.42 million TEU, slightly above the 1.41 million TEU expected a month ago but down 12.6 % from last year and significantly lower than the 1.54 million TEU forecast before the coronavirus began to have an effect on imports. March is forecast at 1.32 million TEU, down 18.3 % from last year and less than the 1.46 million TEU expected last month or the 1.7 million TEU forecast before the virus.

April, which had not previously been expected to be affected, is now forecast at 1.68 million TEU, down 3.5 % from last year and lower than the 1.82 million TEU forecast last month.

While the coronavirus makes forecasting difficult, the report calls for imports to jump to 2.02 million TEU in May, a 9.3 % increase year-over-year, on the assumption that Chinese factories will have resumed most production by then and will be trying to make up for lower volume earlier. June is forecast at 1.97 million TEU, up 9.6 % year-over-year, and July is forecast at 2.03 million TEU, up 3.3 % year-over-year.

Imports during 2019 totaled 21.6 million TEU, a 0.8 % decrease from 2018 amid the ongoing trade war but still the second-highest year on record. The first half of 2020 is forecast to total 10.23 million TEU, down 2.8 % from the same period last year and below the 10.47 million TEU forecast a month ago.


Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Chromium propionate approved for U.S. horse diets

Shutterstock horses in stable

Based on research conducted by Kemin Industries, the Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine has approved the use of chromium propionate as a source of chromium in horse diets, according to an announcement from Kemin.

With this new approval, Kemin said chromium propionate is now approved for use in swine, broiler chickens, cattle and horses, and Kemin's KemTRACE Chromium product is the only FDA-reviewed source of chromium propionate on the market.

Chromium propionate may help stabilize insulin receptors in animals, improving glucose use and reducing the negative impacts of stress, Kemin said. Every cell in the horse relies on glucose to fuel its function and growth. Therefore, maximizing cells' utilization of glucose may result in improved immune response and overall health and performance.

"We are thrilled to introduce KemTRACE Chromium into the horse market," said Kristi Krafka, vice president of regulatory affairs and quality assurance for Kemin Animal Nutrition & Health — North America. "Chromium supplementation is one way that Kemin has advanced nutrition and performance in livestock and poultry in recent decades, and we are proud to now offer the same quality, safe, efficacious product to horse owners, nutritionists and veterinarians."

According to Kemin, published research across many species has shown that chromium may have the ability to reduce cortisol, a hormone secreted in response to stress. The reduction in cortisol during times of stress may decrease negative impacts from stress events, such as extreme heat or cold, diet changes, changes in routine and more, the company added.

Kemin noted that its KemTRACE Chromium is also available for use in horse diets in Mexico. The product is available for use in more than 35 countries around the world for a variety of species.

Established in 1961, Kemin is a privately held, family owned and operated company with more than 2,800 global employees and operations in 90 countries, including manufacturing facilities in Belgium, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa and the U.S.

Kentucky Derby rescheduled for September

Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) announced March 17 its decision to reschedule the 146th Longines Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

The 146 th Kentucky Derby will be rescheduled from May 2 to September 5 and the 146 th Kentucky Oaks will be rescheduled from May 1 to September 4. The dates are contingent upon final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission which was expect March 19.

CDI’s CEO, Bill Carstanjen, stated: “Throughout the rapid development of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first priority has been how to best protect the safety and health of our guests, team members and community. As the situation evolved, we reached the difficult conclusion that we needed to reschedule. At no point did we ever consider canceling the Kentucky Derby.”  

For the latest information on Derby Week, Spring Meet and details on ticketing as well as other relevant information regarding this change, please visit KentuckyDerby.com/updates.

Healthy pastures translate into happy horses

University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture photo by Dirk Philipp U Arkansas horse apples cropped.jpg
A byproduct of horse ownership, horse apples can help feed pasture plants but should be dragged or harrowed to ensure a more even distribution of nutrients.

Healthy pastures mean happier horses, according to Dirk Philipp, associate professor-animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

However, when owners try to make the pony-in-the-backyard scenario work, they may be unwittingly overstocking their pasture.

“Keeping horses on their own few acres is the dream of many,” he said. “However, the propensity to overstock available land is the result of unrealistic expectations for pasture health and management.”

Philipp recommended “no less than two acres of pasture per horse; with barns and facilities included, no less than four acres total land area available per horse.”

Those acres require fairly intense management, he added. Good forage starts with proper fertility and Philipp recommended soil testing.

“Fertilize according to these tests, and specify prior use and location,” he said. “Soils around subdivision developments are usually highly disturbed and may be lacking certain nutrients.”

The next consideration is choice of forages. Philipp said perennials such as bermudagrass and bahiagrass are the forages of choice, especially when interseeded on occasion with winter annual forages. He added that fescue remains an option.

“Tall fescue gets a bad rap, but it is perfectly fine unless your mares are pregnant,” he said. “If plantings are newly established, go with non-toxic, novel endophyte tall fescue.”

Because horses graze very closely to the ground, they will ruin any pasture if overstocked. “However, tall fescue, bermudagrass and bahiagrass are relatively resistant to overgrazing,” Philipp said.

Hay and pastures

Hay and pastures don’t always mix, Philipp said, because hay may carry weeds that can intrude on pastures. “Do not feed purchased hay on any of your grazing paddocks, but instead only in designated hay feeding areas,” he said.

Philipp also recommended not making hay from pastures on which horses were grazed, in order to break parasite cycles. “After you make hay, you can stock horses but make sure to still rotate them to other paddocks to break pest cycles.”


While horses may graze closely, they don’t graze evenly, which means there’s mowing in the horse owner’s future.

“The number one purchase a horse owner can make for pasture maintenance is a mower,” he said. “Pastures should be trimmed to a 6- to 8-in. height. This keeps an even canopy height and helps with weed control.”

Philipp said a sickle bar mower is the best because of its ability to make clean cuts, but a bush hog can also do the job. He cautions against “mowing excessive amounts of biomass as those can create mats on the pasture and hamper regrowth.”

Harrowing also is an important management tactic.

“You should drag out the horse feces piles,” Philipp said. “This will ensure a somewhat more even distribution of recyclable nutrients, plus a harrow will ‘comb’ the grass, pull out dead or dormant material, and aerate the surface.”

Dallas Market reschedules Western Market


The Dallas Market Center has canceled its upcoming March Markets and April Design Week, including its Dallas Western Market.

The Dallas Market Center will remain open for daily business and open-daily commerce, including showroom appointments. "We encourage buyers to reach out directly to showrooms in order to make or confirm appointments. Likewise, we will be posting a list of the hundreds of open showrooms to social media and our website. To maintain a safe and healthy marketplace for all visitors, we will also continue to make extra efforts including additional cleaning of vulnerable surfaces and added hand sanitizing stations," the market stated in making the announcement.

For summer, the market announced new, earlier dates for its June Apparel & Accessories Market, which will take place June 2-5, and Dallas Western Market, which will also take place June 2-5. The summer edition of Total Home & Gift Market, Lightovation, and KidsWorld will each be held as scheduled beginning on June 24.

Please check the latest market calendar for the revised schedule.


2020 Road to the Horse postponed

In an abundance of caution, the decision has been made to postpone Road to the Horse, scheduled for March 19-22, at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena.

This decision was made March 12 in conjunction with the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Kentucky Horse Park, and in consultation with the Governor’s Office as part of the Commonwealth’s ongoing effort to ensure the health and wellness of the public as Kentucky fights aggressively to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At this time, organizers said they are investigating options for rescheduling the event and will provide details as soon as possible.