COVID-19 And The Canada/US Border

The border closure could extend well into 2021. From the Canadian Snowbirds Association:

As was reported last week, the Canada/U.S. land border will remain closed to all non-essential travel until at least November 21, 2020. Canadian Snowbirds Association representatives continue to discuss the issue of the border closure with government officials and agencies on both sides of the border. Ultimately, based on these discussions, the current travel restrictions at the land border crossings could possibly extend well into 2021. At this time, the only way in which Canadian citizens are permitted to travel to the United States is by air. As many members are inquiring, the reason that this loophole exists is that the U.S. Government only applied the border restrictions to land and ferry crossings while the Canadian Government applied the restriction to all modes of travel.

Based on what I have read and from all of the credible sources I have contacted there is no chance the border reopens this year.

We still had hope that perhaps some form of travel exemption would be considered for Canadian Snowbirds that live full-time in motorhomes. Obviously those hopes are dashed.

Thankfully we had made our plans for storing our coach and finding a nice place to live for the winter months. We did all of that work back in August. We structured our lease agreement such that we could give our notice within 30 days should the border reopen. It turned out to be a good decision on our part to secure storage and housing. Very difficult to find suitable arrangements in this part of Ontario.

Many of our Canadian friends that full-time have elected to remain in Canada either renting a place or heading out west.

Canada is a very hostile place for full-time RVers in the winter. The full-time RV lifestyle up here only makes sense if we can travel south.

Pandemics will pass. Eventually.

But if border closures and lockdowns are going to continue for several years, we may explore different options for how we spend this part of our lives in retirement. We have already been forced off the road this year due to COVID-19. I don’t want to repeat this highly disruptive process again and again.

We will wait and see what happens in the new year before we make any firm decisions.

Time now to go and buy a winter coat, winter gloves, winter boots and a toque. Snow and frigid cold is arriving tomorrow.

The winter apocalypse cometh.

Grounded

The coach is now parked at the dealership where it will stay for the next six months. Grounded due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures.

Travel restrictions.

Border closures.

Let’s poke at that a little shall we?

More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March but less than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine — the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from the requirement.

The Canada Border Services Agency provides data each week on the number of people arriving in Canada by land or air, saying “most” people entering the country must quarantine for two weeks.

Of the 4.6 million people that crossed the border into Canada, 1.1 million people were considered non-essential travellers and ordered to quarantine.

That means less than 25 percent of travellers coming into the country since March were required to quarantine. The rest? Well, COVID-19 apparently does not infect essential travellers. They can come and go as they please.

Many snowbirds in the RV community were hoping that the border closure was temporary and they waited as long as possible before making alternate arrangements.

Some, like ourselves, found temporary housing to sit out the Canadian winter. Others took their rigs west in search of a less severe climate. Which, in Canada, means a few regions in British Columbia, several thousand kilometres from where we are presently situated.

There were a few RVers that decided to leave their coaches behind and fly south. Travel by land is banned, travel by air is not. COVID-19 apparently does not like to fly.

A few tried to arrange for their coaches to be driven south.

It turns out that the process to have a U.S. company drive a coach south is fraught with challenges and we know of several RVers that ultimately gave up on that approach.

We will ride out the Canadian winter in a house and hopefully return to our coach and our retirement dream next year.

We are fortunate.

We have a beautiful property to enjoy until then.

Myakka River Motorcoach Resort

Right about now we would be getting ready to make our way south to our winter home at Myakka River Motorcoach Resort.

But not this year.

I remember our first time arriving to this resort. We weren’t quite sure what to expect.

We had spent a long day travelling in the coach and we were running a bit late. The resort wanted us to check in before dark and we were really pushing it to get there before sunset.

Our first impression as we entered the resort?

My goodness. What a what a beautiful spot.

This was a paradise for us.

After a few weeks of staying here we thought to ourselves why would we go anywhere else for the winter?

But Myakka is not going to happen this year. All because of COVID-19.

We will miss our family, our friends and our church in Florida.

Here is a video from when we first arrived at Myakka. Wonderful memories.

A Runaway Train

Ontario faces ‘runaway train’ of COVID-19 cases if families don’t scrap Thanksgiving gatherings. So read a recent headline from this CBC article. Our prime minister told us that it is up to Canadians throughout the country to do their part, to wear their mask, to maintain physical distancing:

“Unfortunately, to not get together with their families and friends for Thanksgiving so that we can take control of this second wave, so that we can all celebrate at Christmas.”

Government officials at all levels have provided inconsistent messaging about the long weekend leading many to wonder whether they could gather with family this Thanksgiving.

The premier of our province was under pressure to clarify the new COVID-19 rules and he issued the following statement:

As we approach the Thanksgiving weekend, we have an opportunity to take time and reflect on what matters most as we all live through these unprecedented times in our province.

I know Thanksgiving is normally a time when people get together with family and friends to give thanks and reconnect, but these aren’t normal times. This year, we will have to make adjustments in order to ensure everyone remains healthy and safe.

On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, it’s not enough to limit the size of Thanksgiving gatherings to 10 people or less. We must all do our part to keep gathering sizes small by sticking to our immediate households.

If you live alone, you may join one other household to ensure no one is alone or isolated this holiday season, but please take the necessary precautions to keep gatherings small.

We are also encouraging everyone to please stay home and limit trips outside the home, except to go to work or school, pick up groceries or medicines, keep a medical appointment, or to exercise.

The family section of our park was jammed with households that clearly missed the premier’s memo. I suspect a fair segment of the population in Ontario ignored the government’s request to limit gatherings to immediate households. The roads leading out of Toronto were just as busy this weekend as they have been all summer. This will change soon as the Thanksgiving weekend is usually the last big weekend for cottagers and campers in our area. COVID or no COVID.

The park closes today. We are able to stay on our site until October 24th. After that we will spend a week at our dealership before putting the coach into storage and moving into the house for the winter.

We did gather with family this weekend. But only with our youngest son. He is still in college and he lives alone. According to the government, he was able to join one other household to ensure that he was not alone or isolated over Thanksgiving. That household was our household.

I was so happy to see him and to spend time with him.

We went on a photoshoot in Copeland Forest to capture the beautiful colours of fall. Despite the doom and gloom of COVID-19, there is much to be thankful. A walk in the forest was just what the doctor ordered. A few images from our hike yesterday.

Essential Travel

Can you cross the land border if you own or rent a seasonal place in the United States? Would the customs officer view the crossing as essential?

I caught this question in the latest issue of Canadian Snowbirds Association:

As a snowbird living in a seasonal home in Canada, I am concerned about reaching my Florida home for the winter if land borders are closed. However, I have heard that we may be able to fly down. Is this correct?

Here was the response:

This is correct and we have lots of examples to prove it. Many of the normal airlines have flights to the U.S., but to limited destinations until business picks up. We believe that it is very safe as long as you take the normal precautions of masks, distancing and hand washing/sanitizers.

The CSA is working on having the U.S. allow us to enter by vehicle as “essential travel,” if we own or rent a home in the U.S. You might try calling the border office where you are planning to cross and asking them if going to your home in the U.S. will count as “essential travel.” If they say ‘yes’, and I think that some border officials will, then ask for their name so that you can use it when you cross.

I can only imagine the encounter when making the attempt to cross the border in our motorcoach.

US Customs: “What is your reason for crossing into the United States today in your recreational vehicle?”
Me: “I called the border office and spoke with someone named John and I asked him if going south for six months would count as essential travel and he said sure thing.”
US Customs: “My name is not John and the border is closed to non-essential travel. Let’s get you back to Canada.”

I will wait to hear official word from the United States that they intend to allow Snowbirds to enter as essential travellers before attempting a land crossing with our coach based solely on a call to a border office.