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Law takes effect to collect vital health data

Addresses disparate impact of the Covid-19 on underserved, underrepresented

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The state Legislature has passed bipartisan legislation to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the Covid-19 pandemic. Gov. Baker  has signed into law the bill, An Act Addressing Covid-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment.

The measure aims to increase the amount of statewide, publicly available data as it relates to the coronavirus. The legislation also establishes a task force to study and make policy recommendations to address health disparities for underserved and underrepresented communities during the pandemic.

“As we continue to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, we must ensure that the public health data we collect will allow us to deliver appropriate care to underserved residents that require attention,” said state Sen. Cindy F. Friedman, a member of the Covid-19 Senate Working Group, in a June 8 news release.

“This bipartisan bill enhances accountability and transparency around data collection, and gives us the tools we need to ensure that vulnerable residents have equal access to the vital healthcare they need and deserve. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Senate and our partners in the House for moving this important bill forward.” 

“Accurate data collection is critical to our success in overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic," said Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) in the release. "The impact of this virus has disproportionately affected certain demographics within the Commonwealth. This legislation will help ensure that we have the best information on who is being effected, which will help us overcome this pandemic."

State Rep. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) said: “The Covid-19 pandemic exposed deep inequality on multiple fronts in many communities around the Commonwealth, inequities that long festered. We cannot just return to ‘business as usual.’ These inequalities can no longer be ignored, and policy reform is essential. We know the risk of getting Covid-19 is higher among those with the lowest income, education levels and health care access. To come up with solutions, we need to collect data that is asking the right questions. Implementing this legislation will help us address policy failures in our most under-resourced communities. I was happy to work alongside my colleagues in the Legislature to address this issue during such a challenging time for those who live in these underserved communities,”

Under the bill, the Department of Public Health is 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, elder care facilities, 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 is required to issue an interim report by June 30, 2020, with a final report due Aug. 1, 2020.


This news announcement was published Sunday, June 14, 2020.

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