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Coronavirus: Some snowbirds choose to return to Canada, others stay in Florida

Some snowbirds return to Canada, others stay behind
WATCH: Nearly 300,000 Canadians travel south during the winter, but as Ross Lord reports, some of these snowbirds are now racing to return home while they still can because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa’s directive to immediately return from international travel has left snowbirds grappling with whether to enter self-isolation in Canada or stay in sunnier climates.

The government’s strong suggestion came over the weekend as some countries closed their borders in an effort to stop COVID-19‘s march across the globe, raising the possibility that Canadians could get stuck abroad. The feds also called on everyone returning from abroad to stay in isolation for weeks.

COVID-19: Canadian travelers rushing home amid outbreak
COVID-19: Canadian travelers rushing home amid outbreak

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But not all travellers were following the advice, including Alycin Hayes, who traded Ontario’s whiplash winter for the warmth of Gainesville, Fla. She said she’s not planning on returning immediately.

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“I’m taking it one day at a time,” she said by phone on Sunday, noting that she’s far more comfortable in Florida.

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“I have a place to stay,” she said. “My place in Canada is not very comfortable to live in right now. I think I’m better off to stay here, especially when there’s so much traffic.”

She said her house in Canada is poorly stocked, and her situation there would be uncertain.

“But people in Florida are used to hurricanes so one generally has a stockpile of a bit of canned goods and things anyway,” Hayes said.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Canada’s chief health officer says people with COVID-19 symptoms remain most infectious

For now, Hayes said she plans on staying home and going out only when needed, such as to the pharmacy or grocery store.

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But even the Canadian Snowbird Association was preparing its members for an imminent return.

“As snowbirds make their preparations to return home to Canada, it is important that they heed the advice of public health officials regarding coronavirus disease,” the group said on its website.

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And certainly, some snowbirds are heeding the call.

David Whitford and his wife Barbara who live in London, Ont., said they returned from Florida on Thursday after three weeks in Sarasota.

“We could have stayed longer but saw all these things in the newspapers about travel restrictions and things like that, so we thought we’ll go back,” said David Whitford. “We’d rather be home.”

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But the disruptions have affected their longer-term travel plans, too, Whitford said. They were supposed to go to a wedding in Kansas, Neb., in the beginning of May and to Texas, later in the summer.

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The couple is “reasonably self-isolated” and they live out in the country with not many neighbours around, he said.

They don’t plan on changing their routine much as they hunker down, Whitford said.