More than 150 physicians who are also mothers have written to Gov. Kate Brown, taking exception to her decision to allow bars, restaurants and other nonessential businesses to continue operating while nearly all public schools will be closed.

"It is unconscionable to allow adults the freedom to go to bars, gyms, social gatherings and other nonessential services at the cost of the education and safety of our children," says the letter, signed by more than 150 physicians.

The letter refers to an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine last week titled "Reopening Primary Schools During the Pandemic."

The article argues that in order to open schools safely, policymakers must aggressively reduce community transmission of COVID-19 by shutting down nonessential gathering places.

"The safest way to open schools fully is to reduce or eliminate community transmission while ramping up testing and surveillance," the article says. "The path to low transmission in other countries has included adherence to stringent community control measures—including closure of nonessential indoor work and recreational spaces."

Brown, like governors around the country, has attempted to strike a balance between attacking the virus through a variety of social distancing measures and allowing a return to normal life. But as has been widely reported, the number of COVID-19 cases and the test positivity rate in Oregon have risen significantly over the past month, leading to Brown's recent announcement that few if any school districts will be allowed to open for in-person classes this fall.

The physician mothers acknowledge Brown is in a tough spot, but they want her to set different priorities.

"Teachers and schools are essential services," the letter says. "The educational, psychosocial and emotional needs of our children must supersede the need to go to a gym, bar or other nonessential services."

Brown's spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.