AFT, UFT, CSA, Doctors Sound Alarm Amidst School Reopening Crisis For Latinos

A new nationwide poll of Latinos in the United States by SOMOS US, UnidosUS, and Latino Decisions shows that America’s rising Latino community is in lasting crisis from COVID-19 as fears grow around school reopening. The poll, which was conducted between August 7 and August 15, 2020, offers insight about our nation’s health and education crisis from the perspective of Latino voters nationally, with a focus on eight key states (TX, AZ, NY, CO, NC, FL, CA, PA), as President Trump pushes an absolute school reopening message at the GOP convention.

… all while 50% of Latinos know somebody who has gotten sick, and a full 10% know somebody who has died.

Latinos have been doubly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social fallout from it, from New York to the Sun Belt. Polling reveals that these issues will be top of mind as Latino parents vote this fall, as the numbers show that Latino voters have COVID-19, the crisis around school reopening, health care, jobs and education top-of-mind – all while 50% of Latinos know somebody who has gotten sick, and a full 10% know somebody who has died.

77% of Latino parents are concerned their children are falling behind academically and 85% are worried about contracting coronavirus if they go to in-person school. And when it comes to school re-opening, 79% of Latinos want a gradual phased-in an approach based on the advice of teachers and health experts, not a rushed opening that puts kids at risk.

Latino parents are clear in wanting more health and safety standards for school re-openings, and more assistance for home-schooling. 77% of Latino parents are concerned their children are falling behind academically and 85% are worried about contracting coronavirus if they go to in-person school. And when it comes to school re-opening, 79% of Latinos want a gradual phased-in an approach based on the advice of teachers and health experts, not a rushed opening that puts kids at risk. Poll deck and results can be found here.

“Since the earliest days of the pandemic, as community doctors, we have been on the front lines: first in New York, and later in Texas, Florida, and Georgia and we have seen people hurting. Latinos have been doubly impacted – both by the health crisis and the economic fallout. Latinos are more likely to get sick, more likely to die, more likely to lose their jobs,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, SOMOS Founder and Chairman. “Many Latinos work hourly or shift jobs or are essential workers: if school shuts down due to an infected child, parent or teacher, the choice is between missing work or losing work and childcare and at-home teaching. No districts are planning for that. This is why this poll and this data are so important as we join with the teachers’ unions to push policymakers to open school districts in a safe, responsible way through testing and technology – or hold off on reopening until these components are in place. We are not there yet. That’s why we are compelled to speak out on behalf of millions of Latino families.”

“These findings have dire consequences not only for the Latino community but for the country’s recovery – and the election. Latinos continue to suffer devastating effects from the coronavirus pandemic. Latinos are now the hardest hit racial or ethnic group in America in terms of both health impacts and unemployment. And because of how the COVID-19 pandemic has hit, and whom it’s hit the hardest, the conversation about returning to school is doubly difficult for the country’s Latino parents,” said Henry R. Munoz, III, SOMOS US Cofounder. “Now, we have polling to back up that assertion and apply data to the agonizing experience that millions of parents in the country’s rising population undergo. This is absolutely consequential to how lawmakers at the local, state and federal level get a head of anticipating a second wave and successive national spikes – especially bracing for those to play out as schools reopen. Government leaders need community doctors and labor at the table together.”

“During this pandemic, the role of pediatricians has been the difference for many families in Latino and minority communities, from ensuring that children are current on their immunizations to keeping our practices open to afford access to community members,” said Dr. Denise Nuñez, SOMOS Critical Care Doctor. “That is why our expert recommendation is that the city must meet all the physical requirements of clean air, proper ventilation, space for social distancing in classrooms and hallways, adequate cleaning protocols, and availability of facilities and supplies for proper hygiene before they reopen. Many of our community members live in multi-generational households and have already lost too many loved ones in this pandemic. We cannot afford to hastily reopen and risk new infections among our already vulnerable population.”

“What we’re seeing in terms of the start of school is the kind of neglect, from the top down, that is unconscionable. The lack of resources to schools to reopen them safely, the lack of resources for grab-and-go’s, the lack of the digital equipment that one needs to do remote or a hybrid model, this could all have been changed and solved,” said Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers. “To reopen schools safely, you have to have testing, tracing, and isolation system, you have to have the guardrails in schools, you have to protect against transmission, meaning masks, physical distancing, and cleaning, as well as hand-washing. This is a pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people. We need to be prepared to help our kids.”

“Schools cannot reopen unless they are opened safely. Our students, their families, and school communities are relying on us to get this right. We cannot let them down,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

“Nuestras comunidades han sido afectadas por el virus del COVID. Los padres de nuestros estudiantes temen enviar a sus hijos a las escuelas que no están lista para abrir sus puertas. Temen que sus hijos traigan el virus a sus hogares. Nuestra primera prioridad tiene que ser la salud y la seguridad de nuestros estudiantes, sus familias y nuestras comunidades escolares “, dijo Evelyn DeJesus, vicepresidenta de educación de la United Federation of Teachers y vicepresidenta ejecutiva de la American Federation of Teachers.

“We need a nurse in every school building, adults and children tested before they enter a school building, and supplies and protocols in every school. Schools that don’t meet those standards should not open until those safeguards are in place,” said Anne Goldman, UFT Vice President for Non-DOE Members.

“The pandemic has impacted our parents, students, and school staff members alike, but our Latino and South Asian communities have been hit particularly hard. As we bring students back to school, we have to be sure that our families, who have already suffered great losses, are not put at risk again,” said Principal Moses Ojeda of Thomas Edison C.T.E. High School in Jamaica, Queens, representing the Council on School Supervisors and Administrators. “We need to reconsider our current plan. Right now, I can’t look at the families of the 2,200 students I lead in the eye and promise them that their kids will be safe and healthy. We’re not saying to stop education. What we’re saying is, let’s analyze the process. No one has gotten this right yet and no one has the answer — but we must do everything we can to make sure we get this right.”


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The invitation and survey were both available in English or Spanish, and overall, 36% of respondents answered in Spanish. Final data were compared to the Census ACS most recent estimates for Latino adults nationwide and weights were included to balance demographics for age, gender, education and region. Overall, the full sample contains a margin of error of +/- 2.3%. Some questions were just asked of registered voters (n=1,488) which contains a margin of error of +/- 2.5%. State oversamples averaged approximately 240 respondents and have a margin of error of +/- 6.3%.

About the poll: On behalf of Somos and UnidosUS, Latino Decisions interviewed n=1,842 Latino adults nationwide from August 7 – 15, 2020. Respondents answered questions on their cell phone or landline with live callers, or via online self-responses through text or email invitations. Respondents were all randomly selected and lists deduped so each respondent only had one opportunity to be included. The invitation and survey were both available in English or Spanish, and overall, 36% of respondents answered in Spanish. Final data were compared to the Census ACS most recent estimates for Latino adults nationwide and weights were included to balance demographics for age, gender, education and region. Overall, the full sample contains a margin of error of +/- 2.3%. Some questions were just asked of registered voters (n=1,488) which contains a margin of error of +/- 2.5%. State oversamples averaged approximately 240 respondents and have a margin of error of +/- 6.3%.

SOMOS and SOMOS US form the foundation of an innovative, value-based care network of over 2,500 diverse physicians and health care providers serving nearly 1 million people in New York City.

SOMOS and SOMOS US form the foundation of an innovative, value-based care network of over 2,500 diverse physicians and health care providers serving nearly 1 million people in New York City. SOMOS has created a new model of quality healthcare on behalf of the most underserved communities of the United States, a model based on cultural competency, increased access, and the ability of community-based medicine to successfully address the social determinants of health. SOMOS is the shared vision of Dr. Ramon Tallaj and Henry R. Muñoz, III, a doctor, and a designer, working together to create institutional change.

This year, SOMOS doctors and healthcare workers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis since our Latino and Asian doctors working in the neighborhoods of New York saw the escalating illness and mortality rates in the inner city. SOMOS established over 60 trilingual testing sites, in New York, Florida, Texas and Georgia, and is providing treatment, health education, and millions of meals to those who need to care the most. SOMOS commissioned the first national polling data on the impact of this pandemic on the health, economic and educational wellbeing of the Latino Community in the United States.

Latino Decisions is the leader in Latino political opinion research. Founded by professors of political science, Dr. Gary M. Segura and Dr. Matt Barreto, it leverages a unique combination of analytical expertise and cultural competencies that are unparalleled in the industry.

Photo credit: Latino scholarship students.

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