GENESEO – With their signs held high and American flags flapping in the wind, about 20 people from a recently-formed group called “Reopen Livingston County” stood along Route 20A and Millennium Drive Friday afternoon to demand that business owners be the ones who decide if and when they should reopen – not the government.

“We feel that it, the Phase 1 restrictions, are ridiculous. They don’t make any sense, so we say go to Phase 4 now. We don’t think people should be restricted from opening by the state,” said event organizer Corrin Strong.

Strong, alongside Leone Scoria, formed the group through a Facebook page and said about 250 people are already members. They said the group is not partisan, but said it is political because they do not agree with how the government has been handling the pandemic.

They called the government’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic an “over-reaction.”

“No phases at all. Just give us our rights back,” said Scoria.

On May 15, the Finger Lakes region – which includes the four-county GLOW region of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties – moved to Phase 1 of the state’s four-phase economic reopening plan after reaching seven metrics related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Different businesses will be allowed to reopen with each successive phase — with about two weeks between phases — as long as the region continues to meet metrics which include a 14-day decline in hospitalization, sufficient testing capacity and a number of contact tracers.

“We are just saying let’s get the government out of this and let the local people on the ground handle this,” said Strong.

Members gathered Friday said it should be up to local stores to decide how and if they should open and for customers to make the decision if they want to visit those same businesses.

“Just because of a virus that is really not that deadly, we have to close down the whole United States, I think it is stupid. Shutting everything down is destroying America,” said Ann Mosbacher.

Added Strong: “We recognize COVID as a real thing, but it mainly is a nursing home disease. The average age of death is about 80. Especially for children and anyone up to age 55, the chances of dying from it are pretty slim.”

As of Friday, Livingston County was reporting 112 total cases of COVID-19. Of those, 96 had recovered and seven people had died, including five residents of Avon Nursing Home. There were nine active cases in Livingston County, according to the county Department of Health data tracking map.

As of Friday, 2,740 Livingston County residents had been tested for the COVID-19 virus, with 2,628 negative tests for an infection rate of 4.1 percent.

On May 5, the infection rate was 6.7 percent and has been trending down, even as testing in Livingston County has increased, according to data from the county Department of Health.

However, with the closing of businesses and shutting down of the economy, some members of the group said the state’s actions actually did more harm than good.

“Even if you could say the net gain from this whole experience of shutting down the economy, putting people out of work and telling them that they cannot go to church, even if you said at the end of the day we saved a handful of lives, I still do not think it worth sacrificing freedom for that end,” said Arthur Blair.

Those at Friday’s rally did not wear masks. They said masks do not work.

“There is no effectiveness, there is no protection in a mask and it actually hurts the person wearing it by depriving of oxygen,” said Scoria.

The rally lasted about an hour.

“We are shutting down the entire economy across the entire country over something that is primarily affecting older people. Quarantine means protecting those people. It does not mean locking down all the young and healthy people and close all of the businesses,” Strong said. “We are doing everything backwards here.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1