During the few times he comments on social media, Ozzy Ramos encourages people to get out of their chair and do something.
“You look around in this world, and there is so much of people arguing and hating and ridiculing each other,” he said. “I tell people to go out and do something for your community. Be the change.”
Ramos is the founder and CEO of Home of Miracles & Embraces, or HOME, a youth development and humanitarian organization based in Stafford County. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, he started wearing a mask, even though his own family ridiculed him.
As the crisis progressed, he shared a discovery—a way to make face coverings from air filters used in furnaces—then he felt the need to make sure law enforcement officers and front-line workers were properly equipped. His organization gave them about 2,500 masks, along with hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes.
He also felt compelled to do something for elderly residents in long-term care facilities who have been particularly hard hit by the virus. In the Rappahannock Area Health District, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford, more than 250 residents and workers in long-term care facilities have contracted the virus. Of the 64 people in the local health district who have died from COVID-19, 29 were residents at area nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
Ramos doesn’t know where the idea came from, but it was “laid upon his heart” to provide air purification units for senior-care settings. He set out to raise $600 for each base unit, which would be placed in a common area of a facility.
In a press release, Ramos cited the way the systems “help sanitize the air by neutralizing airborne toxins and toxic pathogens to help prevent further progression of COVID-19-related outbreaks and fatalities.”
The Environmental Protection Agency agrees air cleaners and HVAC filters can help reduce contaminants in the air, including viruses in a small building or space. The agency stresses that on their own, they’re not enough to protect people from COVID-19, but in combination with best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “filtration can be part of a plan to protect people indoors,” the EPA stated.
Public health officials continue to emphasize ways to avoid exposure to the virus, such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands regularly and cleaning frequently touched surfaces. Local health officials would rather see people, especially at long-term care facilities, follow those practices than rely solely on air purifiers, given “the evidence is limited at this time,” said Dr. Denise Bonds, interim director of the Rappahannock Area Health District.
Ramos partnered with Sam Cachola of Reality Realty Professionals, COMCAST Cares, Guaranteed Rate of Stafford, GEICO, Trilogy Secured Services and American Veterans Ball and raised $7,000 for the effort. He provided units to Marion Manor and Commonwealth Senior Living in Stafford as well as Paramount Senior Living and Carriage Hill Health & Rehab in Spotsylvania County.
All the facilities except for Marion Manor have had outbreaks of the virus. Ramos said he was especially moved by COVID-19’s impact at Carriage Hill, where there were 114 cases and 21 deaths.
“As humanitarians and Samaritans, we feel we have a responsibility to assist where we can in combating this public health threat,” Ramos stated in a press release.
HOME also provided air purification systems for courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms in Stafford and Fredericksburg. The extra measure has helped make people feel a little more comfortable during these uncertain times, said Stafford Sheriff David Decatur.
He and Ramos have been friends for years, and the sheriff described him as “one of those community partners I’m very grateful for. Just the fact that he’s going out of his way to help means the world to us.”
A retired veteran who served 21 years in the Marines, Ramos also wanted to provide the units to Veterans Administration facilities and where service members are offered counseling. But he said there’s been so much red tape involved, that it hasn’t been possible.
HOME has completed its fundraising efforts for air purification units, Ramos said. Its board of directors has regrouped and is focused on establishing an affiliate program with Liberty University. Students would be enrolled in online classes through HOME.