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North HS gets new paint booth from Osseo manufacturing company
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EAU CLAIRE — North High School students Tyler Geroux and Braeden Hesselman, wearing masks and protective gear, painted a car fender bright blue Friday morning at North’s automotive shop.

Instead of painting outdoors, the students used the North auto shop’s newest addition: a state-of-the-art paint booth equipped for quickly painting vehicle parts.

The booth is a partnership between the Eau Claire school district and the Osseo-based manufacturing company Global Finishing Solutions.

North’s new paint booth is the largest and most high-end booth in the district, said Doug Devine, a North technology education teacher.

“The beautiful thing about this partnership with GFS is we are exposing students to an area that’s become huge,” Devine said Friday at a demonstration of the new booth. “Auto collision and finishing is not something that’s going to become less (prevalent) anytime soon.”

North students will bring in their own materials to work on in the auto shop, Devine said.

“The students bring their own vehicles in here to work on, so if there’s something they want to try to paint, it’s going to be available to them,” he said.

Before the new paint booth was installed at North, GFS tested the booth’s airflow and lighting; the booth meets quality standards, the company said.

“We have certain paint booths across the district, but nothing like this,” Devine said. “This is full-scale, industrial-size, and as far as I know it’s the only one we have.”

“Being able to partner with Eau Claire North High School to provide these kids with a safe environment (to paint) is something we truly take pride in,” added Lance Watkins, GFS senior territory manager, on Friday at the school.

Devine said the new paint booth will help North students get familiar with the automotive industry before graduating.

“There are more and more cars on the road every day … a lot of people are driving very high-tech cars, and somebody’s got to do the work,” Devine said. “The problem is we’re getting less and less people exposed to this.”

Students are “excited to test this out and learn,” said Mike Johnson, Eau Claire schools superintendent.

Online magazine ranks EC river walk among the best
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EAU CLAIRE — In a poll conducted on its website, River Travel Magazine voters say that Eau Claire has the second-best river walk/hike trail system in the country.

Steve Plaza, Eau Claire’s parks, forestry & cemetery manager, was thrilled that the city got such a high rank — behind James River in Virginia, but ahead of famed river walks like San Antonio and Chicago, which tied for third place.

“That makes me proud — proud to work for the city,” Plaza said. “We take pride in our trails and our park system. This is just a feather in our cap, to prove we are serving our public’s needs.”

Plaza praised his staff for making sure the paths are cleared throughout the winter so they can be used year-round. He said it is an award the entire city can be proud of.

“There are 45 miles of city-maintained trails,” Plaza said. “That’s second to Madison in the state. People use them for commuting: walking, biking, roller-blading.”

Joshua Pedersen, Eau Clare County’s parks and forestry department director, said it was a unique award.

“People who visit here utilize that resource,” Pedersen said. “We definitely have a lot of activities, from walking along the river, to fishing and kayaking. We do what we can to protect the river, and enhance it. It’s nice to get that recognition from outside the area for what we’re doing.”

River Trail Magazine media director Brent Hanifl said this survey was their third annual “best of the river” poll. When they started, it was specifically for towns located on the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to Louisiana. But they expanded it this year to be a national survey.

“Anybody that is a river town can be nominated,” Hanifl said.

The magazine created a variety of categories, and a total of 230 communities were nominated, with roughly 10 to 15 towns in each category.

“It’s us reaching out to people, and they’re telling us (who is best),” Hanifl said.

The nomination period was Feb. 5 through March 1. Roughly 2,500 people then voted on their website between March 10 and March 26 for the winners.

“The survey is to bring to our readers the favorite places to visit,” Hanifl said.

To learn more and check out the survey, visit rivertravelmagazine.com/bestof

Half of US adults now have received at least 1 COVID shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot, the government announced Sunday, marking another milestone in the nation’s largest-ever vaccination campaign but leaving more work to do to convince skeptical Americans to roll up their sleeves.

Almost 130 million people 18 or older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 50.4% of the total adult population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Almost 84 million adults, or about 32.5% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

The U.S. cleared the 50% mark for adults just a day after the reported global death toll from the coronavirus topped a staggering 3 million, according to totals compiled by Johns Hopkins University, though the actual number is believed to be significantly higher.

In other developments, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert indicated Sunday that the government will likely move to resume use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, possibly with restrictions or broader warnings after reports of some very rare blood clot cases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a series of news show interviews, said he expects a decision when advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meet Friday to discuss the pause in J&J’s single-dose vaccine.

“I would be very surprised if we don’t have a resumption in some form by Friday,” he said. “I don’t really anticipate that they’re going to want it stretch it out a bit longer.”

Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said he believed that federal regulators could bring the shots back with restrictions based on age or gender or with a blanket warning, so that it is administered in a way “a little bit different than we were before the pause.”

The J&J vaccine has been in limbo after the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration said last week they needed more evidence to decide if a handful of unusual blood clots were linked to the shot — and if so, how big the risk is.

The reports are rare — six cases out of more than 7 million U.S. inoculations with J&J vaccine. The clots were found in six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died.

The acting FDA commissioner had said she expected the pause to last only a matter of days. Still, the decision last Tuesday triggered swift action in Europe and elsewhere.

Fauci said he doubted very seriously that the U.S. would permanently halt use of the J&J vaccine.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “The pause was to take a look, make sure we know all the information we can have within that time frame, and also warn some of the physicians out there who might see people, particularly women, who have this particular adverse event, that they treat them properly.”

“I think it’ll likely say, ‘OK, we’re going to use it. But be careful under these certain circumstances.’”

More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects. Authorities stressed they have found no sign of clot problems with the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. — from Moderna and Pfizer.

Fauci appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN’s “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”