Doctors and UFT offer reassurance amidst return to school in Harlem

Physician and member of vaccine distribution task force Dr. Ramon Talla speaks school safety
Photo by Dean Moses

The kids are alright!

As New York City schools reopened for pre-K through six grade on Monday morning, pediatricians and school nurses stood with United Federation of Teachers (UFT) officials to reassure parents of education safety.

A host of individuals in the healthcare field — including SOMOS doctors — and UFT President Michael Mulgrew gathered across the street from Thurgood Marshall Academy on West 151st Street in Harlem to both soothe safety concerns and emphasize the need for continued testing as COVID-19 cases rise in what has become a second wave.

“We know our family members, our kids, our teachers are worried about what is going on, but today together with our partner the United Federation of School Teachers, we want to tell kids and their families that we are here to help. SOMOS Community Care Network, is going to continue testing in our schools, trying to find the best possible environment where our kids can feel safe and where our teachers feel safe,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, physician and chairman of SOMOS US.

Dr. Ramon Tallaj faces an array of cameras. (Photo by Dean Moses)

After extending his thanks to Schools’ Chancellor Richard Carranza, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Tallaj made the effort to ensure families throughout the city that he does not represent large hospitals but instead community physicians who serve almost one million patients.  

“Vaccinations are coming. I am a part of the distribution task force created by the Governor, and we’ll make sure the community will get the vaccine that they need in order to start trying to come back to what was normal daily life in 2019,” Dr. Tallaj ensured the public. 

Mulgrew proudly credited SOMOS for their help in providing testing and ensuring everyone’s safety within the school buildings.

“We are here to make sure that every school community knows that testing is a major priority and the early warning system for the safety of every school that is open in New York City. SOMOS reached out with helping hands at a time when we didn’t have the capacity to do the testing that we needed to ensure our schools would be safe. They have delivered on every promise they made to us,” Mulgrew said. 

During the first wave, SOMOS shared, that they were the first to offer a multilingual testing site in New York City.  They now have more than 100 testing sites throughout the tri-state area, and are currently facilitating within 400 schools.  SOMOS works to test, educate, and is now pursuing efforts towards their next operation which is distributing vaccinations.

SOMOS members assured parents that PPE and social distancing are important, but testing allows tracking to see if the virus is spiking in certain areas.  

“The families trust us. The families come to us for education, questions they have, and we partnered with the teachers to not only test outside but come to the schools and make sure under the leadership of Dr. Ramon Tullaj and SOMOS Community Care Network, that we make sure all our students are safe because if we have a safe school, we have a safe community. We will be able to decrease the spread,” said Dr. Denise Nunez, a pediatrician practicing in the Bronx SOMOS Community Care Network. 

Dr. Denise Nunez addresses the importance of contact tracing. (Photo by Dean Moses

In order for the conference to reach as many families as possible, each speaker reiterated their remarks in multiple languages.

SOMOS doctors also tried to quell concerns regarding the vaccine, stating that not everything is full proof.

“Everything has side effects, nothing is 100%. For us right now, do you want to have the disease or prefer to get the vaccine? There is not question about that. The vaccine has a small particle that will help us to create antibodies that we need to avoid this infection from getting so bad,” Dr. Tallaj said.