Ontario snowbirds deciding whether to head south for the winter during pandemic
Residents in eastern Ontario are still deciding whether to fly south for the winter.
KINGSTON -- As temperatures drop and COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Ontario snowbirds are deciding whether to head south for the winter.
Some plan to remain grounded, while others say the long winter is worth the trip and the 14-day quarantine when they return.
Inge Munro loves her home away from home in Fort Pierce, FL, and calls it "an adult playground."
"There’s ladder golf, there’s horseshoe, dances, we raise money for hospice care, so we have charitable work that we’re doing," she explains.
Munro is one of an estimated 350,000 Canadians who usually spend between three to six months during the winter south of the border, called "Snowbirds."
But this year, at more than 70 years old, and with over 600,000 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the state of Florida since the pandemic began, Munro says they didn’t want to take any chances.
"Our immune system is compromised, so we thought, if we became ill with the virus we probably wouldn’t survive," aid Munro.
Instead, this year, the grounded snowbird plans to focus on spending time with her great-grandkids, and local group in her "pod."
"I’m sort of looking forward to it; it’s not disappointing to me. My husband is a little bit more disappointed because he can’t play golf," laughs Munro.
But flying to the states is allowed by U.S. customs officials, and anyone flying is subject to local state regulations when they land.
In Canada, anyone returning from abroad is required by the federal government to quarantine for 14 days.
One couple hoping for the border to reopen is Gord Alder and his wife.
"My wife and I have a severe dislike of the cold," laughs Alder.
They’ve been wintering in Florida for the past eight years, driving from Ottawa to a small 55 plus community, with just over 20,000 people.
Alder says if the border reopens at the end of October he’ll drive down as he usually does, but if not, he plans to fly.
He says that despite the large case count the state has had over the pandemic, the local numbers in his community are low.
"We’re fairly confident that we can isolate ourselves down there and have much more fun doing outdoor fun where we can social distance and restrict our exposure to COVID," explains Alder.
He says the winter months will force the couple inside, where he feels it’s far more restrictive.
"We would have far fewer activities to do, the risk of exposure becomes greater because our activities, if we’re doing anything, probably would be indoors," he explains.
"We’d much rather be playing our favourite sport pickle-ball outdoors... than indoors here in Ottawa."
Alder insists he will be working to protect himself, and plans to follow the rules once he decides to return.
Should he have to stay longer for any reason he says he has insurance through the Canadian Snowbirds Association, and owns his home, so he feels safe.
"We’re very concerned and probably more careful about COVID than most people, but we’re still making that decision to carefully go," he explains.
Shawn Mahoney agrees that he’ll need to spend the winter in a warmer climate, and is determined to do it safely.
He says if he and his wife can’t drive their trailer to their usual spot in Miami, they’ll look to a location like Mexico for a vacation to break up the long stretch.
"We’re fortunate we don’t have to be back for a specific time, to get our kids back to school, so we’re flexible, but we do want to have a place we can relax for a period of time," he explains.
Even with the 14-day quarantine requirements when he gets back, he says it’s worth it for his health.
"The winters are getting tougher, the older we get, we feel the arthritis, we feel the joints aching, so we really want to break up the winter," he explains. "It’ll come down to where we can get into, what feels safe, and what’s available."