SIMS: COVID tests at the border sow confusion, concern for Snowbirds

There is concern in the heat for Canadian snowbirds preparing to migrate home.

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It was 26°C and sunny in Titusville, Florida when I called Snowbird Steve Pally in his little slice of winter wonderland on Tuesday.

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He had just finished making a barbecue for himself and his wife Ginette. It sounded good.

But there is concern in the heat for Canadian snowbirds preparing to migrate home, which is why Pally reached out to me last week. Unsurprisingly, this is the federal government’s insistence that all people entering Canada must have a negative PCR or rapid antigen test.

“We can only imagine what the chaos will be at the border when these hundreds of thousands of people from Florida, Arizona and Texas come home and rush to get somewhere without fully understanding how the testing procedure works,” did he declare. noted.

This chaos will likely begin on April 1, when many Canadians who have wintered in sunnier climes will close their properties or end their rental leases and start making the long trek home.

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That is unless someone, anyone, in Ottawa understands that Canada is one of the last countries to require costly and unnecessary pre-entry testing at air, land and sea borders, including a much of it is borne by people who need to be fully vaccinated to travel in the first place.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley (Paul Morden/Postmedia Network)
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley (Paul Morden/Postmedia Network)

The mayors of several Canadian border towns met again on Tuesday to work on another plan to get Ottawa’s attention and get the tests thrown out.

“We’re just not happy,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, a vocal member of the mayor’s band who is exhausted by the sound of silence coming from Ottawa.

What’s particularly annoying is that no one has come up with a reason to keep testing going, especially when so many provincial governments, including Ontario, eased COVID-19 restrictions as the Omicron variant loosened. its hold.

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“We need something,” Bradley said. “We are not going to wait until the end of March.”

All mayors “have stories we can share from each of our communities about the ridiculous Monty Python nature of this test system,” he said.

The re-entry test requirement has been a thorn in their side for months. Tests are expensive. Molecular PCR tests, which were the required standard until February, cost between $110 and $225. Even when the federal government has relaxed the policy to allow rapid antigen tests within 24 hours of entry, they still cost fully vaccinated Canadians between US$60 and US$85 per test to prove they have no COVID-19.

A health worker handles rapid antigen testing, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  (File photo)
A health worker handles rapid antigen testing, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Pally, 77, has wintered in Florida since he and his wife retired in early 1997 and bought property there. The pandemic period kept them away for 18 months, and Pally said once they arrived in Florida last fall, it was clear their winter home needed some maintenance.

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“You can’t leave a house in Florida unattended for two years,” he said. They had taken it south almost as soon as the United States opened its side of the border to overland travel on Nov. 8, crossing in the middle of the night to avoid traffic jams of cars and RVs.

Since they’ve been in the south, the Pallys have been cautious. They stayed away from indoor gathering places and met friends outdoors, even though the attitude in Florida about COVID-19 is “very nonchalant.”

“The only people you see wearing masks are Canadian snowbirds,” he said.

They aim to return to Canada the first week of April, but they are already worried about where and how they will be tested. The local hospital is no longer providing PCR tests and there are concerns that traffic, weather and other unforeseen issues will make it difficult to book test appointments anywhere near the border.

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  1. A health worker runs rapid antigen tests, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.  (File photo)

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  2. A car registered in Quebec heads for the only open lane to enter the United States at the Lacolle border crossing.

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Some people Pally spoke to in her Florida community thought they could just take one of the antigen tests sent to their US address for free and have one in front of a border guard once they arrived in Canada.

Pally pointed out that everyone is vaccinated, boosted and registered their shots with the Ontario government.

“None of this makes sense,” Pally said. “Some of these things are concocted by people who don’t quite understand… what’s involved.”

“Looks like nobody’s listening.”

He is right. Spring breakers head home this weekend and snowbirds return next month.

They are expected to drop the tests this week.

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