Legislature Passes Bill to Collect Vital Public Health Data, Establish a COVID-19 Diversity Task Force

Bill addresses disparate impact of the COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented populations 

(BOSTON – 6/5/2020) The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed bipartisan legislation to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor.

The bill, An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment, will 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 Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), a member of the COVID-19 Senate Working Group. “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.”  

Under the bill, the Department of Public Health (DPH) 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 August 1, 2020.