Windsor

Amherstburg snowbird secures alternate way to cross border amid pandemic

Despite the pandemic travel advisories, Amherstburg resident Jude Stewart says she's still heading south this winter to her home in Florida — though she'll have to take a bit of a detour to get there. 

Health officials say travel should be restricted to essential only

An empty beach near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in March after snow birds headed home. (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

Despite the pandemic travel advisories, Amherstburg resident Jude Stewart says she's still heading south this winter to her home in Florida — though she'll have to take a bit of a detour to get there. 

A service in London, Ont., will transport Stewart's truck across the border and fly her, her husband and their golden retriever over to Detroit in a private chartered plane, she told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning. She will be reunited with her car at the Detroit airport and then drive the rest of the way down to Florida.

Typically, Stewart said she would drive across the Canada-U.S. border, but with land border crossings restricted this year due to COVID-19, there were limited options to getting all her belongings to Florida. 

"It's a challenging year, we all know it. The virus is serious, we all have to take it seriously but as a pet owner this year we are extremely limited, we don't have choices," said Stewart, who has owned property in Florida for 35 years. 

She says she couldn't take a commercial flight because of flight restrictions on larger pets. And that she needed to get her truck over as she plans to be in Florida for the next four to five months. 

Dr. Wajid Ahmed says he hopes the federal government will be strict on who can go into the U.S. (Richard Raycraft/CBC)

While it's a bit of hassle and pricier than usual, Stewart says it's worth it. 

She also split the cost of the plane with some friends of hers who also head down to Florida. 

"It is pricey this year but we're hoping it's a one [off] year and by this time next year we're all healthy and this virus is part of the past," she said. "I feel safe. I can get to my home in Florida, I can isolate, I can stay in my small little bubble with a couple neighbours and I can be as happy there as I am here minus the cold weather."

And while she would have preferred to just drive across in a car with just herself, her husband and her dog — she said this was the better option than flying across on a commercial airline with dozens of other people. 

A 'mistake' to cross border

Windsor-Essex's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Friday that people shouldn't be travelling for non-essential reasons, especially into the United States where the case counts are a lot higher than Canada. 

"I think it would be a mistake for people to go to the other side and using these excuses to do whatever, we really have to be careful and I really hope that the federal government will be looking at those travellers and making sure that we are keeping our borders tightly controlled to prevent any importation of cases in Canada," he said. 

Since cases are so high in the U.S., Ahmed added that the risk is "much higher" than what they would encounter in Canada. 

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