SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – SOMOS Community Care, based in New York City, is providing medical care to underserved communities of color across the country, including Savannah.
The physician-led, nonprofit organization primarily provides a network of physicians and other health care providers to the underserved communities of New York City as well as to Nassau and Westchester counties.
Chairman and founder Dr. Ramon Tallaj says the staff quickly changed course once they started seeing how COVID-19 began impacting communities in Queens and the Bronx.
“We call it, ‘el virus de la soledad,’ the solitude virus. People go to the hospital, they cannot come back to see their family members,” said Tallaj. “They’re dying alone.”
In an effort to educate the community, SOMOS began setting up numerous testing sites in areas of New York City that had difficulties getting and affording a COVID-19 test.
Their new mission is to provide the same type of care to communities across the country through a partnership with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Through this partnership, they have set up sites in Houston, Phoenix, as well as the Miami region.
SOMOS recently organized two testing sites in Savannah. The first ran at the Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship Church from July 22 to July 26.
The next site, at Temple of Glory Community Church, will also provide free testing from Wednesday, July 29 to Sunday, Aug. 2.
SOMOS’ staff mainly consists of minorities in the medical field.
Dr. Luisa Perez, the Medical Director in charge of SOMOS’ testing sites in Savannah, says having doctors and medical staff of color serves patients of color better.
“We understand them a little better because we are just like them,” said Perez. “So there’s no translation needed. There’s no cultural barrier. So a lot of things get eliminated and we are able to be one. We’re able to have better communication.”
Chief Operating Officer Dr. Lidia Virgil from SOMOS says it’s important for minority communities to have access to COVID-19 tests because they’re at a higher risk of contracting the virus — and typically have been the hardest hit.
“We are the people that clean in the hotels. We are the people that cook in the kitchens,” said Virgil. “We are the essential workers that must keep going .”
She also added that many minority families live in multigenerational homes in close proximity to each other, which increases the risk of transmitting the virus to other family members.