BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker has filed “An Act to Ensure the Collection of COVID-19 Data,” which will build on legislation recently signed by the governor to expand data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, our administration has continued to expand the information that is made available daily to the public, and this bill will build on the legislation recently passed by the Legislature to further increase data collection by the Department of Public Health,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “COVID-19 has taken a tremendous toll on the residents of the Commonwealth, and has disproportionately impacted certain populations including communities of color and older residents. We have moved to file this bill quickly to ensure that entities are required to report to DPH in a timely way, and look forward to working with the Legislature to pass these updates to help further address the health disparities affecting these communities.”
“This bill will help further enhance the data our administration publishes daily to inform the public about the impact of COVID-19 within the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We know that some communities have disproportionately felt the impact of this terrible virus, and we will continue to work with the Legislature to address these issues.”
This week, Governor Baker signed “An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment,” which will allow for the collection and publication of additional data to understand the impact of COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented populations and other groups.
The bill filed by Governor Baker proposes several updates to this law to ensure the timely reporting of information to the Department of Public Health (DPH).
The quality of the data reported by the Department is entirely dependent on the quality and completeness of the data that is submitted by health care providers and laboratories. While the newly passed law makes clear that DPH is required to collect data on COVID-19 cases and patient demographics, it does not codify the providers’ and laboratories’ responsibility to timely and completely report this data to the department. The governor’s legislation amends the reporting law to make this responsibility clear, and to give DPH the power to issue fines if providers do not comply.
The recently passed bill also requires that a list of designated elder care facilities report COVID-19 data about their residents and staff. While it makes sense to collect this data from the facilities that have access to their residents’ health information, like nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, this law also imposes this obligation on housing complexes and rental units that merely offer housing to the elderly. The governor’s legislation proposes to remove this requirement due to privacy considerations and concerns over the quality of data available from these entities.
The governor’s bill also includes an amendment that would allow the Department to aggregate the data where not doing so would violate federal law or an individuals’ privacy rights.