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DuBois man shares passion for wildlife habitats, hunting through education

DuBOIS — Theo “Teddy” Klark of DuBois has a passion for wildlife and hunting, and he shares that passion through educating the public as best he can.

Klark’s plot seed company for wildlife habitat management, North Ridge Wildlife Forage, is in partnership with Mike Novick of Sharpsville, also run out of DuBois, primarily selling product through its website.

“We were tired of doing the hard work of planting a plot and getting less-than-optimal results,” he said. “We designed all of our blends with Pennsylvania and her unique needs in mind.”

Klark is a member of Pennsylvania Wildlife Habitat Unlimited, a local conservation organization. He manages the habitat on two small parcels of land, planting food plots, controlling invasive plant species and putting in clean water sites for wildlife.

Klark started hunting with a rifle at the age of 13, and was immediately drawn to it, he said.

“I have always enjoyed being with family, and it was my grandfather and uncles who would take me into the woods as a young man,” he said. “As I grew older, I started realizing it was more about the experience, and less about the harvest.”

Klark, an avid predator hunter and trapper, believes the numbers of predatory animals, such as coyotes, who are smart and thus challenging to harvest, should be controlled.

“When their numbers are not controlled, they can become sick, aggressive, wreak havoc on other species and generally throw the whole system out of sorts,” Klark said.

Klark aims to educate the public, whether it’s walking someone around their own property or posting messages on social media.

When it comes to the “non-hunting public,” Klark says there are misconceptions.

“The vast majority of wildlife conservation is done by hunters, and funded by hunters,” he said. “We care about our wild places more than most.”

Also, trapping is much more humane than people have been led to believe, Klark said, because traps are designed to close and hold, not break and damage.

“We care about being ethical,” he said. “We spend hundreds of hours perfecting our skills so we do not cause unneeded harm. Your typical hunter cares more about that wild animal than most understand.”

In the future, Klark hopes to involve more youth in activities he loves, as well as motivate people to create wildlife habitat improvements of their own.

Local artists become finalist in national belt buckle contest

BROCKWAY — Local metal artists Melissa Lovingood and Mary Kay Palazzo are finalists in the World Champion Belt Buckle Competition.

Lovingood and Palazzo are both metal artists at the Brockway Center for Arts and Technology. Palazzo recently joined the center as the newest resident metal working artist under Lovingood.

This is the sixth annual competition, and unique to others like it in that it will have a physical exhibition as well as be available in an online gallery. The virtual exhibit opened on March 6, where Lovingood and Palazzo’s entries can be seen in the gallery of finalists.

“There’s a few calls that are more popular in the metals world, and that’s one that a lot of people apply to. It’s one of the more well known calls,” Palazzo said.

The physical gallery will be open from March 17 to May 16 at the Form and Concept Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

There were 55 contestants who entered more than 66 buckles, from which 45 finalists’ buckles were selected. Contestants were then awarded first through third place and four honorable mentions were selected. This is the first time both Lovingood and Palazzo have entered the contest.

“It’s something guys and girls can both wear. It’s something that people can equally participate in because it’s something for them, so I think it adds to the charm of it,” Lovingood said.

Palazzo likes to include enamels and non-traditional processes into her metal work, while Lovingood works more with mostly metal and forming. Lovingood’s belt buckle is one she made for a workshop at BCAT.

“I had a belt buckle workshop at BCAT and that’s the piece I made as a physical example,” Lovingood said. “It’s good for students to see a physical example.”

The NCAA has canceled the men's and women's national basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring championships, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Clearfield Co. school districts monitoring COVID-19

DuBOIS — While many colleges, including Penn State, are extending spring break as a precaution against COVID-19 being transmitted by students who may have traveled outside of the country, or to “hot spots” within the country, Clearfield County schools are closely monitoring the situation in case the virus becomes more prevalent in their communities.

Penn State has announced that all classes will be held online beginning March 16 and continuing through Friday, April 3.

“For now, there have been no indications of a coronavirus outbreak in Jefferson or Clearfield counties, but that could change as time goes on,” according to the DuBois Area School District website. “We are actively monitoring the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control for situational updates and, when appropriate, making procedural adjustments as recommended by those agencies. All buildings are enhancing efforts to clean, disinfect, and sanitize our schools. Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer dispensers are readily available.”

DASD is also following all CDC and public health guidelines for students who are traveling, Superintendent Wendy Benton said in a letter to parents and guardians.

“The safety of our students, staff and families remains our top priority,” said Benton. “We will act with caution to protect everyone’s health and well being.”

On the Clearfield Area School District’s website, the district issued a statement regarding the rationale their district, along with Moshannon Valley, West Branch, Philipsburg-Osceola and Curwensville, to remain open at this time. While several universities across the region, are contemplating alterations to their semester schedule and their instruction, it is important to recognize the significant difference between a university setting and a public kindergarten through 12th grade school setting. At Penn State, for example, with more than 30,000 students living, studying and socializing in close proximity to one another, and the opportunity for more global interactions among their students and staff based on their recent spring break, the rate of disease transmission is likely to increase. That is not the case in Clearfield County school districts.

“Comparatively, our student population is small, and we are somewhat more isolated geographically,” according to the letter.

Students, families and staff are urged to keep any plans flexible throughout June. While there are no plans to close now, that may be required at some point following guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. If so, that would involve using days from Easter vacation and adding days onto the end of the school year up to June 30, if needed.

Clearfield School District officials said they will continue to monitor the situation and can guarantee all decisions will be made with the best interests of students and staff in mind.

Virus testing is a 'failing,' leaving cases uncounted

NEW YORK (AP) — Seven weeks have passed since the first U.S. case of coronavirus was announced, and the government is failing to account for what could be thousands of additional infections because of ongoing problems with testing.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health. “That is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.”

The effort initially was hobbled by delays in getting testing kits out to public health labs, but the stumbles have continued, leading scientists to conclude that the virus has taken root in more places than government officials say.

U.S. health officials, for example, promised nearly a month ago to tap into a national network of labs that monitor for flu. That system is only just getting started.

Large-scale testing is a critical part of tracking the spread of infectious diseases and allocating resources for treatment. The lack of comprehensive figures means U.S. health providers could quickly be overwhelmed by undetected cases.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported about 1,260 U.S. illnesses — a number that trailed independent researchers, who are adding reports from individual states more quickly.

But some experts believe any number based on test results of individual patients is a dramatic undercount. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles this week estimated that the true count of infections was close to 9,000 — about two weeks ago.

“I expect there are more infected individuals now,” said one of the researchers, Dr. Jonathan Braun. “This means that the level of disease in the U.S. is much greater than has been reported by actual testing.”

The problem, these experts say: The U.S. simply isn’t testing enough people.

There are no official numbers from the federal government on the country’s overall testing capacity. One of the only comprehensive estimates comes from Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner who is now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

As of Thursday, his group estimated U.S. labs could process results for more than 20,000 patients per day. The figure is based on a combination of publicly reported information and historical estimates from government, private and academic labs. It reflects the total number of patient results that could be processed in a day, not the current number being run.

Whatever the actual number, the U.S. effort is trailing other nations.

South Korea, a country one-sixth the size of the U.S. in population, is reportedly testing 15,000 people per day. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield noted that officials there are using automated, high-volume testing systems capable of processing thousands of samples at a time. In contrast, the equipment used by most U.S. state and local labs requires technicians to manually process each sample in small batches, sometimes 100 or fewer per day.

The testing process in the U.S. requires mixing various chemicals to setup chain reactions that extract genetic information from patients’ swabs. Each lab must fine-tune the process on its own equipment, something experts have likened to perfecting a new recipe.

Unlike countries with centralized, government-based health care systems, the U.S. response is fragmented between public labs and private efforts by hospitals, universities and diagnostic companies.

U.S. officials have boasted of shipping well over 1 million tests to labs across the country. But it’s unclear how many have actually been used on patients, because tests have gone to some private labs and hospitals that don’t report into the CDC, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters earlier this week.

Azar said the government is working to set up a system to combine government testing figures with those of outside laboratories.

Government officials have pledged that large private testing companies like Quest Diagnostics will drastically expand U.S. capacity. A Quest spokeswoman on Wednesday said it could take up to six weeks to ramp up to testing tens of thousands of samples per week. The company expects to complete several thousand tests by the end of this week.

On Feb. 14, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said the agency planned in the coming weeks to use labs in five cities to provide a good look at whether coronavirus might be appearing. The idea: When patients test negative for flu, their specimens would go through coronavirus testing to see if the new bug caused their symptoms.

“Results from this surveillance would be an early warning signal, to trigger a change in our response strategy” if cases started appearing, she said.

But earlier this week, nearly a month after the announcement, doctors and scientists were still awaiting word on whether that surveillance system was up and running.

On Thursday, the CDC revealed that some labs had begun the testing. But the list of test sites had changed, and the agency did not explain why.

In its initial announcement, the CDC said the work would begin in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. On Thursday, it said it instead had begun in Chicago and four sites in California — Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara.

Five other locations are working to get surveillance testing going, a CDC spokeswoman said. They are New York City; Orange County and Solano in California; and the states of Hawaii and Washington.

The agency did not immediately detail what the so-called sentinel testing sites have found.