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Coalition of Mass. physicians calls on Baker to roll back reopening

Coronavirus testing last week in Dorchester
Coronavirus testing last week in DorchesterJessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A group of physicians is calling on Governor Charlie Baker to close indoor bars, restrict indoor seating at restaurants, and roll back other reopening measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 Action Coalition, an advocacy group known as COVAC, said such actions are necessary because of the “sharply increasing case numbers in recent weeks.”

“Thousands of Massachusetts residents received text messages last night to stop gathering with family and friends due to the high risk of COVID-19,” Dr. Rebecca Perkins, the group’s co-founder, said in a statement Wednesday. “If the risks are too high for us to see our loved ones, how can businesses that allow people to gather indoors in large numbers remain open safely? We need the administration to issue clear, evidence-based guidance that applies to all settings.”

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Cases have been gradually rising and have surged in recent days. Baker said Wednesday the state is better prepared now to handle the spike than it was during the deadly springtime surge.

But the doctors’ group wants Baker to institute several changes to the state’s reopening policy. Their recommendations include closing indoor bars (even if food is served); resuming previous limits on indoor seating at restaurants; closing or limiting the capacity of indoor entertainment venues; and limiting gathering sizes to fewer than 10.

The group’s petition on Change.org, which has been signed by nearly 700 people, also calls for more surveillance testing and funding for personal protective equipment and additional infection control measures in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Dr. Susanna Huh, the group’s president, said scaling back reopening, enforcing mask mandates, and expanding testing capability was necessary to "avert another full-blown economic and public health crisis.”

“As physicians, the rapid surge in COVID-19 infections is increasing our worry about having enough tests, equipment, and hospital beds to care for our patients,” Huh said in the statement. “As parents, we want to protect our children and keep schools open for in-person learning. Our spouses and friends, including physicians and healthcare workers, are struggling through job layoffs. We all want and need a healthy economy, but a healthy economy isn’t possible without healthy people to support it."

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Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.