Coronavirus: Meet the small flock of Canadian snowbirds in Largo, Fla.

Coronavirus: Meet the small flock of Canadian snowbirds in Largo, Fla.

Her sons again in Canada didn’t need her to spend the winter in Florida, however Margaret Johnston went anyway.

The 80-year-old resident of Newcastle, Ont., says being caught at dwelling within the snow wouldn’t have been good for her legs.

“You’ll be able to’t give them an oil remedy like a automobile,” Johnston says. “It’s a must to work them out.”

Johnston is likely one of the Canadians who has travelled to the southern United States, regardless of Ottawa’s efforts to floor snowbirds. The federal authorities advises towards all non-essential worldwide journey.

“I considered it lengthy and arduous,” Johnston says.

As an alternative of being snowbound at dwelling, Johnston has returned to the Halfway AM/Can cell dwelling park in Largo, Florida. She’s been coming down since 1980.

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This yr, the park is sort of empty, with most Canadian snowbirds lacking. American Richard Decker says the park is normally bustling with actions day by day. As an alternative, all the things has been cancelled.

“It’s gradual. Quiet,” Decker says.

“That’s the worst factor — it’s quiet.”

Sitting in entrance of his cell dwelling, Len Simmons of Toronto says he figures about 90 per cent of Canadians have stayed dwelling as a consequence of COVID-19. He says that wasn’t an possibility for him.

With the border closed, Simmons flew to Tennessee and met his American girlfriend. The 2 of them drove the remainder of the way in which collectively in her automobile.

“I’ve been coming right here for 30 years, and I’m not staying up there within the chilly,” Simmons says.

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Florida attracts extra Canadian vacationers than every other U.S. state. In a standard yr, about 4.1 million Canadians make the journey south.

Whereas most snowbirds have stayed dwelling, some had been travelling to Florida to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The state’s coverage was initially to vaccinate anybody over the age of 65.

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These guidelines, nevertheless, had been tightened after a backlash. Florida now requires folks to indicate proof of residency earlier than they are often vaccinated.

However the probability to be vaccinated early wasn’t a consideration for Anne Udell. She’s assured taking the identical precautions she’d take at dwelling in Kanata, Ont., are sufficient to maintain her secure.

“Once we buy groceries, it takes nerve,” Udell says. “However you employ your masks, and sanitize, and wash your arms.”

Among the many Canadians who made the journey down is one couple that’s lived a nightmare.

Debbie and Wayne Mailman of Aylesford, N.S., have a house within the park subsequent to Halfway. They travelled down in early December and each contracted COVID-19.

Wayne needed to be flown dwelling by air ambulance. Debbie needed to fly to New England and journey throughout the border by land. After a mixup with their insurance coverage firm, the couple faces a $300,000 medical invoice in america.

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For the reason that starting of the pandemic, Florida has seen greater than 1.eight million instances of COVID-19. That’s extra double the variety of instances in all of Canada — 816,000.

Over the past week, Florida has averaged 7,666 new instances a day, in contrast with simply 3,453 in Canada.

Learn extra:
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Udell and Johnston admit there’s a hazard in travelling south, however level out there may be COVID-19 again dwelling in Ontario, and say they wouldn’t be getting as a lot train in the event that they had been caught inside. The 2 girls stroll collectively thrice a day.

“We do our 10,000 steps,” Johnston says. “After which we each go our personal methods, to our personal properties, and we prepare dinner our personal meals.”

The closure of the U.S.-Canada border is having an affect on snowbirds. Most drive down in order that they have a car for the winter. However with the border locked tightly, this yr, they’re pressured to fly.

“That’s what’s holding some buddies at dwelling,” Udell says.

No matter it’s holding snowbirds away, Decker says he’s trying ahead to their return, and life coming again to the cell dwelling park.

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“I’m hoping this has all blown over,” Decker says. “However we don’t know but.”

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