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Nate Bowen, 14, of Huntington, stands with a Valley Health nurse who is wearing a face shield he made and donated to the facility. Submitted photo

You can’t keep a good state down, and West Virginians have proved that in the past few weeks.

Take Nate Bowen, for example. The 14-year old was looking for something to keep him busy while things were shut down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Eventually, that search turned into a way to help those on the front lines when Bowen began using his technology skills to produce personal protective equipment, or PPE, for local medical facilities.

“I’m experienced in the 3D printing world, and I saw the country had a need for face shields,” Bowen told The Herald-Dispatch reporter Hanna Pennington. “So, I decided to start printing them.”

Last Wednesday, Bowen delivered 60 face shields to St. Mary’s Medical Center and Valley Health on U.S. 60.

The process began by printing samples of the face shields and taking them to the facilities for approval, Nate Bowen’s father, Thomas, said.

“The sample units have been put in their hands, we had their folks look at them to make sure they met the specs required, and they gave the thumbs up,” Thomas Bowen said. “He and his younger brother took the shields over to the COVID-19 testing location on Route 60 at Valley Health, met with their team members, and the response was phenomenal — the National Guard was there and they were very impressed with his work.”

Not only were staff at both St. Mary’s and Valley Health impressed by the home-schooled Huntington student’s dedication to meeting the needs of those most at risk, Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, and those in Gov. Jim Justice’s office also recognized Nate Bowen’s efforts.

“Dr. Clay Marsh reached out to me personally and sent Nate a letter just to say ‘Thank you’ and acknowledge his work,” Thomas Bowen said. “So it’s been really nice to hear from those folks to recognize that this was a real need and continues to be a real need.”

And as long as he can continue obtaining the materials needed for the face shields, Nate Bowen said he will continue printing, and will soon look into donating them to local hospice facilities, as well.

Young Mr. Bowen did everything right. He saw a need. He developed an idea to meet that need. He made a prototype, tested it and did his market research. When he had finished his production run, he promptly delivered his product.

What about high school seniors who may be denied the usual rites of passage — prom and graduation ceremonies — that come with the end of a high school career? School officials are taking care of that, too.

Seniors at Cabell Midland and Huntington high schools were able to pick up their caps and gowns last week and come back later in the day to pose for pictures at the schools. They had to maintain social distancing and all the other anti-infection measures, but they were able to take some steps that resembled a normal end of a high school career.

Cabell County school officials remain hopeful that real commencement ceremonies can be conducted next month.

These are only two examples of how West Virginians have reacted to the lockdown that has ended its sixth week.

We still have our differences on how the lockdown was handled, but compared with some other states, for the most part we’ve worked on them peacefully and respectfully (social media not included).

We still have far to go, and we still need to review what was done well and what could have been done better. There has been much to criticize, but also much to praise. It could have been worse.

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