Cyr Apointed to Massachusetts COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force

Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr.

HYANNIS – Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr has been chosen by Senate President Karen Spilka to serve on the Massachusetts COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. 

The “Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Treatment” was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker last month.

Among other provisions, the law calls for the creation of a task force to study and make recommendations to the legislature that address health disparities for underserved or underrepresented populations in the Commonwealth. 

“COVID-19 has disproportionately sickened and killed people of color in Massachusetts, and the culprit is structural racism, bias, and discrimination,” said Cyr.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to serve on the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. I look forward to advancing racial justice in areas that the Commonwealth has ignored or denied for far too long.” 

“We must do everything we can to urgently address the disparate health impacts exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic across our state, especially as Senate zeroes-in on addressing racial inequities elsewhere in our society,” said Spilka.

“The formation of this task force and its recommendations will help provide a road map for improving health care services across the Commonwealth, particularly in our communities of color who were disproportionally impacted by the coronavirus. I want to thank each of my appointees in advance for lending their time, voice and expertise to this critical issue.” 

The act calls for state public health authorities to include racial and demographic information as part of COVID-19 reporting requirements.

In the days since the legislation was signed, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has indicated that Black and Hispanic individuals were three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 in Massachusetts.

Of the 10 cities and towns with the highest rates of COVID infection, nine are communities where more than half the residents are people of color. 

The task force will study health disparities for under-served or underrepresented populations based on culture, race, ethnicity, language, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, geographic location and age.

The group will then make recommendations to the legislature on how to move forward on addressing those disparities.

The task force will make recommendations in the following areas: 

  • Improving safety for populations at increased risk for COVID-19. 
  • Removing barriers and increase access to quality and equitable health care services and treatment.
  • Increasing access to medical supplies. 
  • Increasing access to testing for COVID-19.  
  • Ways to provide information materials to under-served or underrepresented populations on available and affordable health care resources. 
  • Any other factor the task force deems relevant to address health disparities. 

The Senate President’s other appointees include: 

  • Michael Curry, Deputy CEO and General Counsel at Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers 
  • Dr. Milagros Abreu, Executive Director, President and Founder of The Latino Health Insurance Program 
  • Dr. Cassandra Pierre, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Boston University and infectious diseases physician at Boston Medical Center 
  • Dr. Frank Robinson, Vice President of Public Health and Community Relations at Baystate Health 
  • State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) 

The Health Equity Task Force will convene when the remaining nominees are designated.

It will produce a report on its findings and recommendations in late August.

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.
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