We see COVID-19 test administrators on campus every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. by the Sudakoff Conference Center and outside the Boar’s Head in Hamilton “Ham” Center, but who are these people? How did they come to test at New College? This article serves to showcase the frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with this group so close to home, make sure to take advantage of the services they provide every week.
The group of three every Tuesday consists of Darren Niemann, the owner of Medicare Lab Services here in Sarasota, and the two test administrators: Jim Barnacz and Erika Luzio. All three seemed to find each other in 2020 and having come from different directions, they were moved to make a difference during this global pandemic.
“Myself and a friend of mine, actually Erika, we partnered up with a lab that was doing COVID-19 testing,” Barnacz explained. “We actually drove, because everybody was locked down in their homes at that point, from Tampa to Northport. We would actually drive to people’s homes and we would perform one-on-one COVID-19 testing on individuals in their homes. We were averaging anywhere from 20 to 30 a day.”
“Before COVID-19 hit two years ago, I was actually a state licensed security officer,” Barnacz continued while showing pictures of himself with a Game of Thrones actor, Gregor Clegane. “I was doing armed security and bodyguard work for celebrities when they would come to town.”
After the pandemic hit, companies shut down and there was no need for security personnel, leaving Bernacz to look into new industries for work. These stories, sadly, are prevalent in the United States, as the World Economic Forum estimated that 114 million people worldwide lost their jobs in 2020.
“I had the sickness in the beginning,” Luzio explained. “It changed my way of thinking because I wanted to be a nurse. Because I had it, and I had it bad, I didn’t end up in the hospital but I was very sick. I decided that I wanted to be in the frontlines actually, to help out.”
“Erika came in at the very beginning, so she was doing COVID-19 testing when people were definitely afraid of going outside still,” Niemann chimed in. “It [COVID-19] definitely has opened my eyes a lot to seeing how fast there can be a health problem through whole communities, cities, states and the whole country. We opened the lab specifically for that reason, to start testing people and trying to help with trying to curb the spread.”
When prompted with the question of how on-campus testing has been for them, they mentioned nothing but good things.
“Oh my goodness I love it!” Luzio exclaimed. “I love to be surrounded with cute people. By myself I have two children, they’re 25 and 22. You guys are awesome, really.”
“One of the positive things for me is that there are so many people that care enough to make sure they’re getting tested to stop any spreading if they can,” Niemann shared. “So that’s an encouraging thing to see in our community. We’re glad to be a part of your community here, so thank you for letting us be here.”
The passion to maintain public health runs deep in the trio that continuously visits campuses, veterans associations, companies and people’s homes to administer tests to keep the larger community as safe as possible, despite long treks to each destination.
“I have been in other places and they were just crazy with COVID-19, here it has been very controlled, you guys are very under control,” Luzio gushed.
Niemann went on to say, “I would commend the New College administration for their proactive part in helping the students and the campus stay healthy. They should get a pat on the back for that.”
The COVID-19 testing team blends into the New College community, simply wanting the best for everyone on campus and supporting students when and where they can.
“If between the week you’re just not feeling good then give us a call and we’ll test you individually, we don’t care,” Barnacz added. “We’re available 24/7, not just Tuesdays.”
Niemann expressed his anticipation for future testing turnouts: “It’s free so I hope it fits in everyone’s budget.”
If you or someone you know is not feeling well or suspects COVID-19 infection, the on-campus testing team is outside Sudakoff and Boar’s Head every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Click this link to pre-register. Give our test administrators, Darren, Erika and Jim some love and your nostrils!