There is a little-known bill before the MA Legislature that has serious potential adverse consequences for the public: S.1334/H.2204 the “Statewide Accelerated Public Health for Every Community Act” (or “SAPHE 2.0”). This bill will dramatically reshape the public health infrastructure in Massachusetts at potentially great financial cost to taxpayers and with little or no local involvement. The bill poses several major problems:
- It would give ill-defined and unprecedented powers to the Commissioners of Public Health and Environmental Protection to organize sweeping public health responses. Terms such as “outbreak of disease”, “public health situation”, and “public health responses” are used vaguely and without limitation giving dangerously broad powers that would affect every MA resident to two unelected officials.
- It disempowers local boards of health to manage their own local situations, compelling them to concede to decision-makers removed from local issues and the needs of their own communities.
- It allows for increased surveillance and tracking of individuals, eroding medical/personal privacy.
- It creates a large, new and expensive state bureaucracy—using millions temporary federal ARPA funds; MA taxpayers will be burdened with the future costs of maintaining these systems.
It is now known that many covid pandemic mandates and restrictions were harmful to individuals and the community. Lost jobs, bankrupted businesses, physical injury, psychological distress, isolation of dying family members, and delays in children’s development are among them. Caution, discernment and localized responses are needed going forward, not increased powers for unelected officials to potentially enact widescale mandates that bypass individual and community decision-making.