In the beginning of March, we moved from Kissimmee to Hallandale for the second part of our winter get-away. Already at that time Coronavirus was in the news in Canada, where, as a result, a whole new way of life was developing. Many scary stories filtered through scant Canadian news reports. My husband and I took all the recommended precautions seriously those that we heard on the Canadian News.
When we arrived on the East Coast of Florida, the serious atmosphere or the level of frenzy over the virus was not evident. In fact, there was scant talk of the virus and its devastating impact. While Canada was counting the number of infected people and the subsequent deaths, in Hallandale many people I spoke with were faintly aware of it. I think the reassurance of President Trump that the virus was a hoax and would disappear in a matter of days, definitely had an impact of that state’s population.
Within ten days, the atmosphere suddenly changed to serious understanding that this was no hoax but a grave event that was becoming a global tragedy. Grocery stores suddenly filled with more customers buying extra groceries and stocking up on toilet paper for some strange reason. Then came the call from home, Canada from Prime Minister Trudeau. “Snowbirds, it’s time to come home!” He almost sounded like ET, “Please come home!” French Canadians were the first to heed the warning that we must be heading back. New words cropped up in our conversations with them and the locals like social-distancing, curve, flatten the curve and self-isolation. We had an idea where this was heading, but unbelievably, our American neighbours took it all in stride.
Where this was most evident was on the beaches. Who doesn’t like the beach? Inevitably, authorities closed the beaches from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. However, the young people kept returning. Fire departments, policemen and security guards were called in to disperse the crowds. To no avail! Crowds kept returning, defying orders to leave, and thumbing their noses at hefty fines. It took the authorities 6 full days and nights to convey to them that they were serious. Why did it take the revellers so long to understand that the situation with a very contagious virus was looming? The laid-back lifestyle had to unpack many layers of reality until the truth sank in.
We too had to move, though, and fast.
We packed up in one day and headed towards the Canadian border. Driving on I-95 and I-77 through North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The local radio stations were still downplaying the dangerous effects of the virus. The Canada-US border, however, was closed to non-essential travel by now. It was hard for us to understand how this deadly virus could be raging across the border in one country but not in the other.
We were only too happy to have see the oncoming sign over the the Peace Bridge. We were the only passenger car, at 11;00pm, arriving at the border crossing in the company of 19 heavy rigs. The Agent was thorough in her questioning of us, and in her strict instructions about our mandatory 14-days of self-isolation. We received medical forms to fill out in case we should come down with symptoms. This was to be presented to our health-care provider within 5 days of these symptoms. All this necessary formality only took 5-7 minutes but enough time for us to feel secure in our home environment and that Canada is working to get this dire situation under control.
Happy to be home, but more than happy to be calling Canada my home.