Council grants COVID-19 powers to Mass. public health commissioner

BOSTON (SHNS) – After the COVID-19 state of emergency ends next week, the state’s public health officer will continue to be empowered to take action around COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and protective measures for high-risk groups, according to a vote on Wednesday by the Public Health Council.

When Governor Charlie Baker signed a state of emergency last month effective June 15, he also issued a new one, changed explanation a public health emergency – which will allow the Commissioner, with the approval of the Council, to “expand or adopt measures to facilitate COVID-19 testing and vaccination for all populations across the Commonwealth, specific measures to protect higher risk populations to issue or to carry out continuous monitoring ”. of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth and to respond to any outbreaks of the virus as needed.

In preparation for the latest phase of the pandemic, the Council, in two unanimous votes, authorized Commissioner Monica Bharel to continue dealing with COVID-19 in accordance with this statement and lifted the rules on the use of masks and face coverings in an emergency.

The newly granted power of attorney – separate from similar powers approved by the council at the beginning of the emergency in March 2020 – will only apply personally to Bharel for a short period of time. She is stepping down on June 18, with Deputy Commissioner Margret Cooke taking over the top position on an interim basis.

“The guiding principle for me has always been to promote health equity and recognize racism as a public health issue and a fundamental cause of so many health inequalities that we present to you every month,” said Bharel of her six and a half years leading the Ministry of Health. “I am proud that this department has fundamentally changed the way we see our work in public health by focusing on health and racial justice as we strive to serve the people, all of the people of the world Commonwealth, especially the weakest. “

Bharel said that among many other lessons, COVID-19 “taught us that health inequalities are not someone else’s problem”.

“Our neighbor’s health, whether next door or on the other side of the world, can have a direct impact on us,” she said. “The pandemic is and has been an important reminder that the barriers to good health are higher for some people than for others.”

As of Tuesday, more than 3.87 million people in Massachusetts were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and Bharel noted that new case numbers and hospital admissions have declined. She said these numbers “don’t tell the full story” and that DPH plans to “continue to focus on targeted, community-based vaccination efforts”.

“DPH’s mobile vaccination providers are expanding their geographic reach in most regions of the state, having established more than 250 mobile vaccination sites and administered over 25,000 vaccinations, including through clinics and employer and school locations, by June 3,” said Bharel. “In addition, our vaccine access and vaccine delivery providers are now deployed in smaller locations and community facilities where we are able to provide more personal assistance in vaccinating people.”

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