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Dozens Of Doctors Sign Letter Urging More Aggressive State Action Against COVID-19

A nurse at a drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing station, set up by the University of Washington Medical Center, on Friday, March 13, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
A nurse at a drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing station, set up by the University of Washington Medical Center, on Friday, March 13, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Dozens of doctors in Massachusetts signed a letter Friday urging state government to take more aggressive action against the novel coronavirus, which has now been declared a pandemic. The letter lists several gaps in the government’s strategy to mitigate the severity of an epidemic in the commonwealth.

First on the list is a lack of rapid and widespread testing for the virus. Many health experts have said in the last few weeks that there is a dire need for more coronavirus testing, and they've called for allowing testing at more local hospitals and laboratories, rather than just those approved by the state.

“One place we need to be able to [test] is in the hospitals, not just to the patients, but the frontline workers,” said Dr. Pardis Sabeti, an immunologist at Harvard University and the Broad Institute, at a planning meeting for Massachusetts General Hospital.

The letter also criticizes the state for failing to postpone major events like the Boston Marathon soonerand for waiting too long to urge the public to avoid settings like theaters, concerts and houses of worship where people may encounter and have close contact with others.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday announced a prohibition on events with 250 people or more. He said schools were receiving guidance about how to respond to specific situations, including if a parent or student has the virus, but he stopped short of recommending statewide closures, saying decisions should be based on the individual school and situation.

In their letter, the doctors urge a more aggressive approach.

“Schools should be closed when there is evidence of community transmission or even a few cases of individuals identified with severe illness in a given location,” the letter says.

It also calls for special attention to vulnerable and often overlooked populations, like those in prison or jail.

Doctors signing the letter said government should take the lead in setting these policies and being proactive in recruiting help from businesses and institutions in Massachusetts.

“With Boston’s wealth of medical and scientific expertise, we should aim to be the model for everyone else in the U.S.,” the letter says. “Let us take action now – before it is too late.”

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Angus Chen Twitter Reporter, CommonHealth
Angus Chen is a reporter for WBUR's CommonHealth.

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