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Veteran, practical nurse fighting on frontlines against pandemic with Community Health Center

Originally posted on New Britain Herald

U.S. Marine Corps veteran and now licensed practical nurse Ramon Clark said he is proud help fight on the frontlines against the pandemic working at Community Health Center of New Britain’s drive-up testing site.

Clark, who served in the military from 2005 to 2009, sought out a career in healthcare after returning from active duty. This led him to work as a medical assistant before getting his LPN certification at Lincoln Tech. Last year, he was offered his current position at Community Health Center of New Britain. Little did he know at the time he would soon be facing a worldwide pandemic.

“I grew to love working in a community similar to the one I had grown up in; helping an underserved, low-income population,” he said. “When the pandemic began, like the rest of the world, we were all a little freaked out about what the future would hold. But I knew that it was something that we would have to face. We were going to be deployed to serve the community.”

Clark said he provided support in helping Community Health Center of New Britain to expand its drive-thru testing site. In March, Clark said the site was serving 20 to 50 people each day. Today, the average is between 300 and 350 people. He said at the previous site it was common to see cars lined up and down the street.

“At one point there was an hour to an hour-and-a-half wait due to the volume of people coming in,” he said. “We are not only serving people in New Britain, but in surrounding towns as well. Despite the wait, people were happy to have a site in the heart of the city that they could go to free of charge and with no referral. The site has since been relocated to 80 High St., behind Walgreens, and using the lot allows us to have a much better system. The wait time is now down to only a half-hour.”

Clark said in an average day he sees several hundred “regulars” who are required to have weekly covid testing for their jobs. However, he is also still seeing people arrive for other procedures as well.

“When I signed up for this, I knew going in that I would be caring for people who were ill or needed help,” he said. “It’s a nice feeling when first responders or people in the line thank us.”

Clark said as vaccines become available, the testing site has begun to offer them as well.

“We’ve already started with first responders,” he said. “A lot of people who come to us for testing are asking about the vaccine. They are ready to go; they want to have that sense of comfort.”

So far, Clark has managed to avoid contracting covid-19 himself. One of his co-workers did test positive after meeting with a relative, but he said the testing site workers are following all safety precautions for masks, face shields and distancing.

Unfortunately, Clark has had family members who live in New Jersey contract the disease, one of whom died in May.

“I’m originally from New Jersey and when the virus hit, New Jersey originally had the second-highest amount of cases after New York,” he said. “When I got the news, it didn’t slow me down; it made me that much more enthusiastic about doing this. New Jersey doesn’t have the same kind of access that we provide here. I wanted to continue to support the community as much as possible.”

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