AUBURN — Central Maine Healthcare’s high-volume COVID-19 vaccination site in the Auburn Mall bid farewell Wednesday to the National Guard members who helped run the operation almost a year since it was established.

The clinic’s break room, located in an empty storefront across from Thatcher’s, was awash with camouflage and scrubs as staff and community volunteers gathered around folding tables adorned with trays of sandwiches and party-size bags of chips.

The clinic will cease operations Thursday, exactly a year since it was opened.

In that time, health care workers have administered 65,446 vaccinations, which, as of Wednesday, is 33,067 less than the total amount administered by Central Maine Healthcare since December 2020.

At the height of the pandemic, the clinic conducted about 1,500 screenings and 1,300 vaccinations a day, according to information provided by Central Maine Healthcare employees.

While nurses and doctors administered vaccines, National Guard troops held responsibilities such as organizing lines of patients, helping them with registration, record keeping and monitoring patients during the observation period after receiving the vaccine.

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Since the beginning, the number of troops posted at the clinic has varied.

“It has gone from 9 to 15 working per day, but also we’ve had upwards of 18 on the list who would cover people’s leaves and stuff like that,” said Justin Smith, 2nd lieutenant, Air National Guard, who has been at the site since November.

“People have come on and off orders, we’re all citizen soldiers so some of us were able to do a month, two months; some have been here a year, he said. “It has been a constant rotation of folks. Us being National Guard, we also have civilian jobs and families in the community.”

He added that the majority of those posted at the clinic have been younger troops without established careers.

The clinic has been spearheaded by Jen Jordan, system director of medical specialties at Central Maine Healthcare. A registered nurse at Central Maine Medical Center, Jordan lauded the efforts of the National Guard and community volunteers that kept the clinic afloat during the most dire days of the pandemic.

“I chose to go into health care, and many of our community members chose to volunteer, so for them, they were asked to do something a little uncomfortable, something that they hadn’t been previously exposed to, but if it wasn’t for the uniform you would have no idea that these guys and ladies have ever been a part of health care,” Jordan said. “They’re caring, they’re kind, they’re compassionate: they’re everything that I would look for in a team member.”

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“I don’t think people realize the commitment of the volunteers,” said Liza Cagney, a nurse who was part of the state’s COVID-response team and worked at long term care facilities prior to coming to the clinic.

“These are people who are working, retired doctors, nurses and even people who are nonmedical who are administrative,” she said. “Plus you have the National Guard, which was great at the forefront.”

Although unlikely, the possibility of reopening the clinic in the event of a COVID-19 resurgence has not been ruled out.

“We’re not really certain what the future (holds), again, it’s whatever the need is, and we’ll continue to evaluate what that looks like with the state, with community partners, because truly as you can see, it takes more than just one group to pull off something to this magnitude,” Jordan said.

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