Snowbirds fly no more

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into the winter months, many Newfoundlanders are stuck home in the cold.

Bob Noseworthy is a member of the financial committee for the park his property is in. He says the park should stay open even during the pandemic.
Bob Noseworthy is a member of the financial committee for the Florida community he spends winters in. He says the community’s finances are in order, so it will survive the pandemic. Matt Hagerty/Kicker

Matt Hagerty

As the days get shorter and colder, many retired Newfoundlanders and Labradorians look to get away. However, COVID-19 has put all vacations on ice forcing people to prepare for the winter months ahead.

Bob Noseworthy owns a property in a gated community just north of St. Petersburg, Florida. He and his wife were there in early April at the beginning of the pandemic and rushed to get home.

“We usually fly home,” said Noseworthy. “But we didn’t want to take the chance of our flight being diverted or delayed, so we drove for three days just to get back to the border.”

Noseworthy says many people were in a panic because they didn’t know if the border was going to be closed for everyone or just for non-Canadian residents.

“It’s a whole different world.”

The idea of a harsh winter isn’t a pleasant thought for Noseworthy, as he has been travelling to Florida for “more years than [he] can remember.”

When he thinks about the pending heavy snowfalls, he says, it makes him sick.

“I dread the thought that I would be barred in the house and not be able to go anywhere,” said Noseworthy. “I love my wife and I love our home, but give me all day at home and I’m ready to go to the loony bin.”

Lilly Clarke and her husband have owned their property just outside Clearwater, Florida, for 23 years. She says they aren’t looking forward to staying in the province for the winter, but will deal with whatever comes their way.

“When you’re there [Florida] you can’t picture having snow back home as much as you had last winter,” said Clarke. “It’s a whole different world.”

“She is the joy of our life right now.”

Noseworthy isn’t too worried about the upkeep of his property. He pays fees to maintain everything year-round and has maintenance checking on the inside regularly. It’s a big investment, says Noseworthy, but worth it because of what they get out of it.

“Our park is a good, active park, we have a large clubhouse,” said Noseworthy. “There’s activities like darts, pool and shuffleboard.”

Noseworthy says they have also made a lot of friends and always look forward to spending time with them over the winter, which is something he will miss.

Approximately 450,000 Canadian Snowbirds spend one to six months each year in the sunshine state, according to a Canadian government study.

Some of those friends are still travelling despite the pandemic, says Noseworthy. He thought about going down, but thinks it would be too dangerous for him and his wife who have some health concerns.

Cases of COVID-19 are still high in the state. On Wednesday, Florida’s Department of Health confirmed 5,838 new cases and 52 deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported only two news cases and no deaths on Wednesday. Only four people have died in the province since the start of the pandemic.

Clarke says she just wouldn’t feel safe returning without drastic change south of the border.

 “I would not go back into the states, unless we had some kind of a vaccine,” said Clarke.

There is a silver lining, she says, to being home for the winter. They have a two-year-old great-granddaughter and the idea of being able to spend more time with her is something she’s looking forward to.

“She is the joy of our life right now,” said Clarke.

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