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Week of COVID 'disobedience' planned by group opposed to Erie County mandates

Amid rising COVID cases in Western New York and warnings about increased hospitalization, local health leaders are seeing new pushback.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A group calling for dramatic change to the pandemic mandates in Erie County is planning a week of "civil disobedience." The group of groups includes "Unmask Our Children WNY," business owners who have opposed the county's guidance, and elected officials who have criticized the recently re-implemented mask mandate.

"This is no different than the women who marched for suffrage in the early 1900s, this is no different when Rosa Parks said no I'm not getting off the bus," said co-organizer Robby Dinero.

Dinero is no stranger to challenging Erie County and the state's COVID-19 mandates. He did so last year in regards to his gym Athletes Unleashed. This coming week, however, (Dec. 5 through Dec. 11) he told 2 On Your Side the focus is parent groups.

"Our goal is to bring them together into one functional group so our efforts can be unified in getting rid of the mandates and allowing for parent choice to raise and take care of their kids as they seem fit," Dinero said.

"This is civil disobedience in many ways but it's just a way of non-compliance against the mandates that are making absolutely no sense and have been affecting us for quite some time," said co-organizer Jina Gentry.

The week will start Monday, Gentry said with a march in Niagara Square, followed by a walk-out at schools across Erie County Thursday. The group is also encouraging kids to take off their masks in school after the pledge of allegiance Friday, in direct defiance of state and CDC recommendations. 

In response to the group's plan, a spokesperson for the Erie County Executive's Office said in a statement:

"Case numbers are hitting record highs, hospitals are brimming and diverting patients, and a new variant is on the way. People should get vaccinated, get boosted when they can, and care about other people by wearing a mask to protect themselves and others."

Gentry said she expects some pushback for their defiance.

"I really hope the conversation comes around the fact of, that we as people need to be able to live our lives and make the choices we want to make and that we're not going to stop a virus from spreading," Gentry said.

The CDC has repeatedly said that the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Stay at least 6 feet (about two arm lengths) from others who don’t live with you
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you
  • Clean your hands often, either with soap and water for 20 seconds or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces daily. If someone is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19, disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Monitor your health daily

"Leaders need to talk about other plans to put in place for things like this where it's not government overreach," said Gentry.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul echoed those recommendations.

"We're encouraging indoor mask use for sure, that is another way for people to have that extra layer of protection but again the booster and vaccination are the primary ways to protect themselves," Hochul said.

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