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Coronavirus: Snowbirds fly south for winter amid pandemic

Beach with palm trees, Florida Keys which is located off the Florida mainland. Getty Images

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the Canada U.S. border being closed, some Canadian snowbirds are still finding a way to fly south for the winter.

Although the border is closed to all non-commercial vehicles, flights are still operating between the countries.

Paul, whose last name Global News has agreed to withhold for fear of backlash against his company, says his 91-year-old father is one person who will make the trip down south in a helicopter.

“My father has been going to Florida for the past 20 years and every year he goes down in the middle of January and returns usually in April.”

He tells Global News his father has hired a service to drive his car across the border that will meet him at an airport on the other side, where he can then drive the rest of the way to Florida.

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Read more: Coronavirus — Canadian entrepreneurs in Florida lament loss of snowbirds amid pandemic

According to the New York Times, Florida has seen over one million cases since the pandemic began, reporting an additional 9,372 as of Wednesday. Florida has also reported at least 19,377 deaths.

Paul has friends and family in the United States and said he does not think they have caught on to the severity of the pandemic.

“I think this is a pretty big risk that I recommended he not take but he seems pretty determined,” he said.

“He does not like being cold, and he has his friends down there, but I think the risks are pretty high.”

Great Lakes Helicopter is a company flying people out of St. Catharines, Ont., to the airport in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as transporting their vehicles across the border and waiting for them on the other side.

Great Lakes Helicopter aerial shot. Great Lakes Helicopter

The cost will run people $1,200 to cross the border in the helicopter and an additional $700 to $1,200 to transport the vehicle depending on the size.

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Read more: Bill Kelly — Are Snowbirds grounded this winter?

Helicopter pilot Jeremy Rood told Global News a lot of their customers felt they did not have a choice.

“We have had a serious demand for people looking to use our services,” he said.

“Some of these people, when we came up with the services, were calling us, letting us know they were living in a motel or out of their RV in a parking lot.”

Many people who have chosen to split their golden years between Canada and the U.S. may not have a winter option.

The trip back across the border should be a bit different for snowbirds, with the process for Canadian citizens coming back a lot easier than it was to leave.

What’s happening now is the opposite of what was seen months ago when the border was first closed where many Canadians in the U.S. struggled to get back home.

The government of Canada continues to advise Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country amid COVID-19.

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