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Wolf praises local firms for virus response

Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday praised two area companies — along with several others in the state — for transitioning to produce equipment used in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

New Pig of Tipton has been manufacturing hand sanitizer and disposable face shields, while UMF Medical of Johnstown has been making emergency beds for field hospitals, Wolf said during the administration’s daily webcast.

New Pig’s sanitizer is medical-grade, registered with the Food and Drug Administration and manufactured according to a World Health Organization formula, while its face shields are certified by the American National Standards Institute, according to an administration news release.

UMF began producing the beds — “not a product we typically offer” — at the request of customers, and after collaborating with those customers, the firm’s national distribution partners and local manufacturing firms, spokeswoman Stephanie Murray said in an email.

“We have shipped thousands,” Murray wrote. “We were happy to be part of the solution to the COVID-19 crisis and also happy to continue providing family-sustaining jobs.”

A nonprofit, open-access workshop and business incubator in downtown Altoona that Wolf did not talk about has also been producing equipment used in the COVID-19 response.

Beginning early in the pandemic, with members not around because of social distancing requirements, core staffers of Catalyst Space followed the example of other “makerspace” organizations around the country and began producing personal protective equipment, using digital programs those organizations were sharing to operate 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC milling machines, according to Catalyst Space Chairman Justin Merrell.

“We saw (that initiative) emerging in the news,” Merrell said. “We were really inspired.”

The organization let it be known through posts on social media and emails that it was making face shields and “ear savers,” which are straps that allow elastic bands on cloth masks that normally hook around a user’s ears to ride instead behind their heads, relieving irritation.

The organization donated the products it made to UPMC in Pittsburgh, Tyrone Regional Health Network, AMED, local doctors’ offices and the Altoona Area School District, and it sold some to local companies employing essential workers, according to Merrell.

Having made 500 face shields and 150 ear savers, Catalyst Space is scaling back production, because demand has eased for the products its machines can manufacture, Merrell said.

Another death

The region has another COVID-19 death — that of an 88-year-old man who had been a resident of a State College-area personal care home, according to Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers. The man died Wednesday at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, Sayers wrote in an email. It was the sixth COVID-19 death that has occurred in Centre County, according to Sayers.

The death was not reported Wednesday on the state Department of Health website, which was already reporting six COVID-19 deaths for Centre, based on the home addresses of those deceased individuals, as listed on their death certificates.

But another death was added Wednesday by the DoH to the total for Huntingdon County — presumably that of an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, which had been reported Tuesday on the Department of Corrections website.

It was the third COVID-19 death at SCI-Huntingdon and the second death of a Huntingdon County resident, based on the DoH listing.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

By the numbers:

New/total COVID-19 county cases: Blair 0/48 (1 death); Bedford 1/38 (2 deaths); Cambria 0/57 (2 deaths); Centre 1/149 (6 deaths, plus one reported by the coroner); Clearfield 0/37; Huntingdon 0/228 (includes SCI Huntingdon 161 inmates, 135 recovered, 3 deaths, including 1 new death); 53 employees, 34 recovered);

Area new/total cases: 2/557

New/total cases statewide: 780 (up 72 percent)/69,417 (62 percent recovered), 576 positive serology tests

New/total deaths statewide: 113/5,265, 7.5 percent of positive cases

New/total negative tests in area counties: 262/10,471

New/total tests in area (new positives plus new negatives): 264/11,028, 2.1 percent of population in Blair; 1.8 percent of population in area

New/total negative tests statewide: 10,155/349,990

New/total tests statewide: 10,935/419,407; 3.2 percent of population

Infection rate (percent of population with confirmed positives) region/state: 0.09 percent/0.54 percent

Positivity rate (percent of total tests that are positive) region/state: 5 percent/16.5 percent

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