NEWBURYPORT — The recommended 6-foot social distancing guidelines didn’t stop a group of local residents from showing their support for health care workers at Anna Jaques Hospital on Monday afternoon, all while keeping their distance.

Doctors, nurses and other employees going to and from the hospital during the 3 p.m. shift change were greeted by a group of about 10 women and children standing in the parking lot holding signs to thank the staff for their hard work and pledging support during the COVID-19 outbreak.

One of the sign holders was Newburyport resident Barb Cullen, who explained that the group comprised members of a local book club who decided during a recent meeting — held via the videoconferencing site Zoom — that they wanted to show their gratitude for workers putting themselves at risk during the pandemic.

“As we’re sharing more info about how doctors and nurses are getting exposed, and how there are equipment shortages, we thought it would be nice to catch them coming into work to let them know we appreciate them,” Cullen said.

“We know there is some stress involved," she added. "Even though we can’t get together in large groups, if crowds were allowed, there would have been a big group. For me, there was some solemnity and true gratitude.”

Cullen said the group was thanked by some of the workers coming in and out of the hospital and that she was glad to see the group’s efforts having a positive impact.

“It felt good to hear that they saw the gratitude. We are so grateful that they chose their profession and that they are showing up to work for us,” Cullen said.

With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, Cullen said she expects the book club will continue to express its support in the future.

“It’s all just starting now in our town," she said. "We’ll be back when the days get harder.”

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