Canadian snowbirds torn over heading south or staying home amid COVID-19 pandemic
TORONTO -- More than half a million Canadian snowbirds usually travel to Florida for the winter months and many more head south to enjoy the sunshine in Arizona, Texas and California.
Hascal Rosen and his wife Sandra of Toronto have been traveling to Florida for more than 30 years.
They enjoying swimming, golfing and seeing friends, but this year after reviewing all the factors related to COVID-19 they've decided to stay home.
“We feel because of the issues down south we do not want to put ourselves at risk and this is why we have decided not to go south this winter," Rosen said.
Sandy Munro and his wife Lynn of Aurora have a place in Florida and have been going there for the past seven years to spend the winter months.
Despite the pandemic, Munro says they’ve decided it’s worth the risk to soak up the Florida sunshine.
“I can't stand the cold weather over a three month period from January to March and I need the warmth for my health,” Munro said.
Insurance companies have created travel insurance plans that will cover someone if they contract COVID-19. Some have even increased medical benefits from $200,000 to $1,000,000 in case someone is hospitalized and requires treatment due to the virus.
Martin Firestone the president of Travel Secure, which sells COVID-19 travel insurance coverage, says most of his clients are in two camps.
“They say I’m going south and they are rolling the dice saying they are going to bubble in Florida. The other group says you won't catch me there, I’m not going down there. This year is a total write off," Firestone said.
Firestone says about 30 per cent of his clients plan to go south even though the federal government is advising against it.
Snowbirds will have to fly south as the land border remains closed to non-essential travel.
Firestone says one concern if a Canadian does catch the virus while wintering down south is that surging numbers of Americans catching the virus could mean some hospitals may be full.
“The real problem is going to be if you go to the hospital you could be in for a rude wakening. The service and the expectations may not be at the level that you’re used to," Firestone said.
Firestone says even though he is selling his clients COVID-19 travel insurance coverage - his advice is to stay put.
“As long as there is a travel advisory, until there is a vaccine being distributed, until there is feeling of comfort - stay at home and don't head down south," Firestone said.
Anyone who decides to go south will have to make sure they have travel medical insurance coverage that it includes coverage for COVID-19.