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Waterloo Region health official ‘disappointed’ over planned anti-masking event in Kitchener

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Anti-mask and anti-vaccine theories' Coronavirus: Anti-mask and anti-vaccine theories
Masks are mandatory in much of Canada, but a segment of the population doesn't agree with wearing face coverings and many nay-sayers also don't believe in the value of vaccines.

One of the region’s top doctors says she’s “disappointed” to hear that a group is planning a mask protest on Sunday in Victoria Park.

“Masking isn’t just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those around you and it’s about keeping our community safe as a whole,” Dr. Julie Emili, Waterloo’s acting associate medical officer of health, said Tuesday morning. “So when you hear about these things, it’s disappointing.”

Read more: Masks will be mandatory in Waterloo Region beginning July 13

She said the group’s organizers should look at how the pandemic has affected the U.S. (which has suffered over 150,000 COVID-19-related deaths) as an example of an improper response to the coronavirus can cause unnecessary suffering.

“I think if we look to our neighbours in the south, you can see what can happen when people don’t follow public health recommendations or processes aren’t put in place to limit spread, whether it be limits in gatherings, physical distancing or masking,” Emili said.

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Click to play video 'TVA reporter presses charges following anti-mask protest' TVA reporter presses charges following anti-mask protest
TVA reporter presses charges following anti-mask protest

A few dozen people have said they will be attending Sunday’s anti-mask rally in a Facebook event listing promoting the event. It is unclear how many of the respondents are from Waterloo Region.

The event is being sponsored by an advocacy group called Hugs Over Masks, which claims to be “restoring our liberties” in Ontario, stating that lockdown measures are “unnecessarily harming Ontarians’ health and rights.”

Read more: Vancouver protesters rally against masks, though experts say they slow spread of COVID-19

Top medical officials from Canada and around the globe have stated that masks will help protect the community from the spread of COVID-19, a disease that has already cost 119 people their lives throughout the region since the pandemic began.

“Everyone has a right to opinion, but we have to think about what is our collective responsibility to each other,” Emili said.

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The City of Kitchener says it is aware of the event and is hoping people will respect physical distancing measures if they choose to attend.

“The City is aware of planned gatherings in Victoria Park on Sunday, August 9, and asks that participants and organizers comply with provincial recommendations which include maintaining physical distancing and ensuring that gatherings do not exceed more than 100 people,” spokesperson Shawn Falcao told Global News in a statement.

“City bylaw staff will continue to monitor and ensure compliance with the gathering limits set by the province and continue to encourage that physical distancing recommendations are followed.”