On June 7, 2020, Governor Baker signed the COVID-19 data reporting law that allows for the collection and publication of certain COVID-19 data and creates a task force to understand the impact of the virus on underserved and underrepresented populations. Click here for a full summary of the data reporting law.
CHAPA supports the important goals of the law to increase data collection to better protect and meet the needs of those who are most impacted by the virus, including communities of color, persons living in nursing homes, or those in correctional facilities. We also support the creation of a task force to examine disparities in barriers to accessing testing, care, and medical and personal protective equipment.
However, the law imposes concerning and burdensome reporting requirements on all subsidized and market-rate housing developments for seniors and persons with disabilities in Massachusetts. Please see below for more information on those requirements. CHAPA raised concerns about the reporting requirements in a letter to Governor Baker before he signed the law.
CHAPA agrees that reporting requirements should apply to nursing homes and other skilled-care facilities where medical care is provided to residents. However, the law should not apply to private and subsidized housing for seniors and persons with disabilities. These housing providers do not administer medical care and do not have access to the private health information of residents. These new requirements will impede transparent information sharing between housing providers and residents. The requirements also threaten the private health information of residents of housing for seniors and persons with disabilities and will take critical resources away from housing providers and their residents that are needed to protect against and prevent the spread of the virus.
Although the Governor enacted the data reporting law with the reporting requirements in place, he filed a bill (S.2753) that would remove housing providers for seniors and persons with disabilities from the reporting requirements. CHAPA strongly supports this bill and will be working with the Legislature to pass the legislation. More information on S.2753 is provided at the end of this page.
However, all housing providers for seniors and persons with disabilities in Massachusetts must comply with the law's reporting requirements until the the Governor's bill passes. There is currently no guidance from any state agency on how housing providers should comply with the law or what the consequences are for any violation.
As CHAPA works to pass the Governor's bill, we will also make recommendations to DPH on how to make the reporting requirements as least burdensome as possible and to make clear how housing providers should comply with the law as it is implemented.
Reporting Requirements for Housing for Seniors & Persons with Disabilities
The law requires elder care facilities to report daily to their local board of health and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) the number of known COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents and staff. DPH will publish this data broken down by elder care facility daily on its website.
The law also requires elder care facilities to notify residents and each resident’s health care proxy or other legally authorized representative by 5:00 p.m. the next day if:
- There is a new confirmed case or death due to COVID-19 among residents or staff; or
- Three or more residents or staff present with new-onset of respiratory symptoms within the past 72 hours.
The law defines “elder care facility” to include all federally and state subsidized public and affordable housing developments for seniors or persons with disabilities. The reporting requirements also apply to all age-restricted housing developments for seniors in Massachusetts, including market-rate developments that do not receive any federal or state subsidy. The reporting requirements will remain in effect until Massachusetts has no positive COVID-19 for 30 days.
Guidance on Complying with Reporting Requirements
Currently, there is no guidance on how housing providers should comply with the law - such as what is considered a known case that must be reported, who information should be reported to at local boards of health and DPH, how to notify residents, or what the consequences are for any violations.
DPH may issue guidance as it implements the law. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is not expected to issue guidance for public and subsidized housing providers. This page will be updated with information on the requirements as it becomes available. CHAPA will also be making recommendations to DPH on how to make the reporting requirements as least burdensome as possible and to make clear how housing providers should comply with the law.
Governor Baker's Bill to Remove Housing Providers from the Reporting Requirements
On June 8, Governor Baker filed a bill (S.2753) that would remove housing providers for seniors and persons with disabilities from the reporting requirements of the new law. Click here for a fact sheet on S.2753.
S.2753 removes housing providers for seniors and persons with disabilities from the COVID-19 data reporting requirements. The reporting requirements of the new law will be extremely burdensome on housing providers for seniors and persons with disabilities. The requirements should not apply to these housing providers for several key reasons:
- The law requires housing providers to report “known” COVID-19 cases and deaths of staff and residents. Housing providers have no way to know about cases unless the resident or their family choose to inform the housing provider. This is not a reliable way to gather information on COVID-19 cases as the data could be incomplete or inaccurate.
- The law requires housing providers to notify not only all the residents of a facility where a COVID-19 case occurred but also each resident’s health care proxy. Housing providers do not, as a practice, keep this information.
- The reporting requirements run counter to the expressed will of tenants in many senior housing developments. At the start of the pandemic, housing providers began notifying residents of each COVID-19 case or death. However, residents actually asked the housing provider to stop the notifications as they scared residents and caused undue anxiety without any guidance about how to remain safe as a result of the notification.
- The reporting requirements will force staff to conduct extensive notification exercises instead of actually keeping tenants safe. Complying with these requirements will take critical resources and staff time away from performing tasks like cleanings that proactively prevent the spread of the virus.
For these reasons, CHAPA strongly supports S.2753 to allow housing providers to more effectively protect residents and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Joint Committee on Public Health will accept written testimony on the bill from Thursday, June 25, through Thursday, July 2. Click here for the portal to submit written comments. The Committee does not plan to hold a virtual hearing for people to testify by video.
CHAPA will be working to pass the bill. We will provide further updates and opportunities for partners to help advocate for the bill, including sample testimony.
For more information on any of this, please contact Eric Shupin, firstname.lastname@example.org.