State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, will now serve on the Massachusetts COVID-19 Heath Equity Task Force. Cyr represents Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, and was appointed by Senate President Karen Spilka on Monday.
This task force was created through the Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Treatment that was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on June 7. The task force studies and makes recommendations to the legislature that address health disparities for underserved or underrepresented populations in the commonwealth.
“The formation of this task force and its recommendations will help provide a road map for improving healthcare services across the Commonwealth, particularly in our communities of color, who were disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus,” Spilka said in a release.
Cyr spent five years at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in several roles, including director of policy and regulatory affairs with the Bureau of Environmental Health.
“COVID-19 has disproportionately sickened and killed people of color in Massachusetts, and the culprit is structural racism, bias, and discrimination,” Cyr said. “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.”
The task force will study COVID-19 health disparities for underserved or underrepresented populations based on culture, race, ethnicity, language, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, geographic location, and age. Cyr joins the force with experience with the department’s data collection capabilities and knowledge on ways in which health data can translate into actionable solutions to improve health equity.
In June, the task force called for state public health authorities to include racial and demographic information as part of COVID-19 reporting requirements. This prompted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to provide information that showed black and Hispanic individuals were three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 in Massachusetts. Nine out of the 10 towns with the highest rates of COVID-19 in the state have populations that are more than half made up of residents of color.
The Health Equity Task Force will report its findings at the end of August.