Legislature Passes Bill to Collect COVID-19 Data and Address Health Disparities

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico and State Rep. Dan Ryan joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a bill to make more information about COVID-19 cases publicly available, including cases at elder care facilities, soldiers’ homes, and houses of correction; it also creates a task force to provide recommendations on how to mitigate health disparities for underrepresented and underserved communities in the wake of the pandemic.

Taken together, the provisions of An Act addressing COVID-19 data collection and disparities in treatment will provide the public with a greater understanding on how the virus is affecting those in locations hardest hit by the pandemic, including elder care facilities and urban areas. The task force, in turn, will make recommendations to alleviate disparities in infection and treatment among populations disproportionally impacted by the outbreak.

“This data collection is essential in telling the whole story of the COVID-19 epidemic moving forward. We are not out of the woods yet.” said Ryan. “We, as a country, were not ready for this. Locally, we adapted well but not well enough for too many of our families. City officials in Chelsea and Boston, along with area hospitals, were able to use the data available to make requests of government and move resources. By codifying this data collection into law and establishing a task force we will be better prepared for the climb out of this than we were going in.”

Said State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, “These reporting requirements are critical to ensuring we have a full and up-to-date understanding of the pandemic’s impact on our communities, and the inequities that exist across our Commonwealth. Our district has been especially hard hit by COVID-19, and any additional information that we have at our disposal will be key to tailoring our response to this pandemic. I am confident that data and knowledge we gain through this legislation will help to determine our long-term recovery efforts and inform the Legislature’s ongoing work to address systemic inequities in our healthcare and safety-net systems.”

Speaker Bob DeLeo said the Act was critical for monitoring COVID-19.

“Whether it’s our elderly, our veterans, residing in Soldiers’ Homes, who have served our country bravely, persons of color, or residents in those communities experiencing a particularly large share of the impact from COVID-19, the burden of this virus has fallen disproportionately on key demographics. We need to make sure we have the best information on the toll the virus is taking in Massachusetts. I look forward to the findings of the task force to determine how we can address the impact of this virus in underserved and underrepresented communities,” said DeLeo. “I thank Chairs Michlewitz and Balser, Vice Chair Gonzalez and my colleagues in the House for their work on this important bill.” 

The components of the bill are as follows: 

•Requires the Department of Public Health to collect daily data on the number of individuals tested positive, hospitalized, deaths, and key demographic information, including cases and mortalities at elder care facilities;

•Specifies details on the format of reporting data from local boards of health and elder care facilities;

•Mandates that elder care facilities notify residents and their healthcare proxies if there is a new confirmed case or mortality due to COVID-19 or 3 or more residents or staff have symptoms;

•Includes the Department of Corrections and each House of Correction among those facilities which must comply with the data collection and reporting provisions of the bill;

•Creates a task force to study and make recommendations on addressing health disparities for underserved or underrepresented populations based on a variety of demographic factors;

•Asks that the task force provide recommendations to improve safety for at-risk populations for COVID-19, remove barriers to quality and equitable health care services, increase access to medical supplies and testing, among other items.

The bill now moves to the governor for consideration.

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