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From the Office of Senator Boncore: Bill to Collect Vital Public Health Data, Establish COVID-19 Diversity Task Force

(Photo from The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
Senator Joe Boncore

The Massachusetts State Senate has passed bipartisan legislation to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment, would increase the amount of statewide, publicly available data as it relates to the coronavirus, and establish a task force to study and make policy recommendations to address health disparities for underserved and underrepresented communities during the pandemic.

“The Senate affirms our commitment to a transparent approach to addressing public health disparities faced by communities of color,” said Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). “This legislation not only utilizes data to highlight health inequities, but also creates a task force prepared to address them. As we move towards recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disproportionate impacts experienced by low-income communities and communities of color must be recognized and resolved.”

Under the bill, the Department of Public Health (DPH) will be required to compile, collect, and issue daily online reports on the number of people tested for COVID-19, positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths along with the gender, race, ethnicity, primary residence, occupation, disability, age, and primary language of each case.

To ensure a comprehensive understanding of cases statewide, the legislation also requires that daily reports include data and demographic information from municipalities and counties with more than 25 positive cases, all DPH licensed nursing homes, assisted living facilities licensed by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, as well as state and county correctional facilities. Facility-specific information will be made publicly available while maintaining individual privacy.

In addition to requiring greater data collection, the bill requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to describe the actions it is taking to address disparities identified through the data collected.

In response to increasing concerns about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and disproportionately impacted populations, the legislation also establishes a task force to study and make policy recommendations for how to address these health disparities. The task force will be required to issue an interim report by June 1, 2020 with a final report due August 1, 2020.

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