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Officials asking people to stop arguing over COVID-19 measures and save energy for what's ahead

Health officials overseeing Elgin and Oxford counties are pleading with people to stop arguing with each other over COVID-19 public health guidelines. 

Southwestern Public Health issued an open letter to the community on Monday

Several cities in the region, most notably the town of Aylmer, have been the centres of "freedom rallies" where people have protested COVID-19 public health measures such as mandatory face masks and physical distancing, calling them an infringement on their rights.  (Geoff Robins / AFP via Getty Images)

Health officials overseeing Elgin and Oxford counties are pleading with people to stop arguing with each other over COVID-19 public health guidelines. 

In an open letter to the community, Southwestern Public Health said the region needs to "conserve our energy for the long months ahead, rather than spend it in disagreement." 

Several towns in the region, such as Aylmer, have been gathering centres for "freedom rallies" with people protesting COVID-19 public health measures such as mandatory face masks and physical distancing, calling them an infringement on their rights. 

The second rally in Aylmer even prompted the mayor to declare a state of emergency as up to 2,000 people swarmed the small town just southeast of London.

While the letter did not mention any specific towns, the rallies or the repercussion of them, including multiple charges to organizers, it did say that the division seen in the community over the best way to respond to the ongoing pandemic "is not surprising."

"We each approach challenges from different educational, religious, political, and familial perspectives. Our ways of seeing the world are held deeply within us, and in times of stress, we hold on tighter to what we believe to be true."

Many people in Aylmer, like resident Mike Moore, are in favour of public health measures. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

In the letter, the health unit said as a community and as individuals, people have choices to make: 

"We can choose to meet our neighbours with patience and understanding. We can choose compassion for those who are struggling during this difficult time; we can choose self-compassion if we find ourselves in difficulty."

Officials said it's time to focus on the things people can agree on, including the desire to protect the community and the most vulnerable, adding that "we each have actions we can personally take that will reduce the spread of this virus in our communities."

"At the end of this pandemic – and there will be an end – we will again gather in comfort and in ease, at hockey arenas, and school barbecues, at worship, and at weddings, knowing we did our best to protect and care for the communities that we love," officials concluded in the letter. 

As of Monday, the region had logged a total of 640 cases over the course of the pandemic. Currently, there are 102 active cases, mostly concentrated in Woodstock, St. Thomas and Aylmer. 

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