By Tammy Schneider
On March 25, the Federal Government, under the Quarantine Act, mandated that all Canadians returning to Canada as of midnight were required by law to self-isolate for 14 days immediately upon returning to the country. Repeated requests from governments at all levels and public health still found that Canadians returning to Canada were making stops at grocery stores etc. before returning home, or ignoring the isolation recommendation altogether.
Snowbirds Ted and Diane Petter have been enjoying winters on the gulf coast of Florida for a dozen years. They typically head south in early January after spending Christmas with family and don’t return to Kincardine until mid-April. They were enjoying warm, sunny days when on March 13 they received a notice from the Snowbirds Association, informing them that insurance companies were ending their coverage for travelers outside Canada for another 10 days. The message from the association was to get home as soon as possible, or lose insurance coverage.
The Petter’s had already heard of the COVID-19 crisis, having seen reports on television and information received through emails with friends, but still found that when things got bad, they got bad fast.
“It came out of the blue fast,” said Petter. “We packed up on the 19th and were home on the 21st.”
The area the Petter’s visit, The Venetian Golf and River Club, is a gated community with about 1,400 homes. Some Canadians spend their winters there, as well as many American families. It is also a permanent residence for many. News of worsening conditions, insurance limitations and the possibility of closing borders had many vacationers heading for I-75 to make the journey home. Petter describes the highway as a “lifeline through the states.”
As the couple travelled into Port Huron and approached the Bluewater Bridge, they were struck by how deserted the area was. Petter said there were no other vehicles on the bridge and the whole area had an eerie feeling. The border guard didn’t ask any of the typical questions travelers expect, gave them a sheet outlining self-isolation procedures and told them to have a good day. Petter said it took them less than one minute to cross the border.
Once in Canada, they were struck by how quiet the roads were, seeing very few vehicles as they travelled Highway 402 and eventually Highway 21.
The Petter’s are now in self-isolation in their Kincardine home. They went directly home and have relied on the kindness of friends to help them restock their supplies.
“We have good neighbours and they are helping out,” said Petter. “We are very lucky to be in Canada and to be in this part of Ontario.”
They will remain in isolation until April 4 and are not showing any signs of ill health.
During their 14 day isolation, they are spending their time cleaning up and doing small jobs around the house and describe it as a small price to pay to ensure their continued health and the health of others.
“Trudeau hit the nail on the head,” said Petter. “Enough is enough – go home and stay home.” And for those who don’t follow the rules of self-isolation, Petter advises them to “Take a step back. You are putting other people at risk.”
The Petter’s are also waiting for updated information about the Transplant Trot, an annual five kilometre run and three kilometre walk, held in honour of their daughter, Leslie, who died as a result of cancer. The trot is in its tenth year, and is a fundraiser for the Canadian Transplant Society as well as the Leslie Petter Memorial Award. The trot is usually held in May but because of COVID-19, has been tentatively rescheduled for June 14.