Last week, Senator Sal DiDomenico announced that the Massachusetts 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, including gateway cities like Chelsea and Everett.
“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,” said DiDomenico. “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. These new reporting requirements will also help to determine our long-term recovery efforts and inform our ongoing work to address systemic inequities in our healthcare and safety-net systems. I am pleased that the Senate has taken action to implement strong data collection and reporting requirements, and it is my hope that this bill makes it to the Governor’s desk in the very near future.”
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.
The bill is the latest action by the Senate to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its effects on Massachusetts.