Notwithstanding government advice, I have travelled south and am currently coviding in 30-degree temperatures on the sunny beaches of Mexico. To be clear, we left home two weeks before the government issued an anti-travel advisory to all seniors last week.
By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on November 23, 2020.
I am a snowbird sinner.
Notwithstanding government advice, I have travelled south and am currently coviding in 30-degree temperatures on the sunny beaches of Mexico.
To be clear, we left home two weeks before the government issued an anti-travel advisory to all seniors last week.
The government advice did not mince words: “avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada and to avoid all cruise ship travel until further notice…. If you are an older traveller, you may be immunocompromised or have chronic medical conditions such as obesity…. By choosing to stay at home…you can help protect yourself, your family and those at risk of more severe disease.”
Judging by the absence of northern vacationers in Mexico, most people are heeding that advice.
In what is usually the beginning of the high season, in our condo there is literally only one other Canadian couple from Calgary that has made the trek south.
Rules require us to quarantine in our unit for two weeks before accessing the pool or any other common facilities.
And we are extremely diligent in self-distancing and masking whenever we venture into any public spaces.
The good news is that most of the activities in Mexico take place outdoors. We walk on the beach daily and can easily eat outdoors at home or elsewhere.
We did not make the decision to travel lightly and even had several discussions with family members who are front-line medical workers.
But the bottom line: it is much easier to survive the social isolation in warmer weather.
The notion of simply staying in our Ottawa apartment would likely prompt risky indoor social gatherings.
The announcement of a potential vaccine has lifted the spirits of all, but it is definitely going to take up to a year to cover the country.
Already, disputes are erupting between levels of government on how many vaccines will be available by province and when they can be accessed.
Health Canada has yet to approve the vaccines.
There will be tremendous pressure on the federal government to fast-track treatments as American neighbours start receiving emergency injections before year’s end.
There are several vaccines on the verge of approval, two of which have announced results up to 95 per cent efficiency. U.S. President Donald Trump can take credit for that news, as he launched Operation Warp Speed to propel the race for a safe vaccine.
That has buoyed health-care workers in the United States, where at press time, almost every state in the union was on a negative COVID trajectory.
Canada’s numbers are also continuing to trend in the wrong direction. The premier of Ontario is expected to announce deeper lockdowns in Peel, York, and the city of Toronto because of the prevalence of COVID in the GTA.
As the numbers rise, there is confusion about the best way to flatten the curve.
Just as the Canadian government is telling snowbirds to stay home, the Ottawa medical officer of health is tearing up on television publicly discussing thousands of mortality statistics that aren’t covered in COVID death counts.
Dr. Vera Etches cited spikes in suicide and cancer deaths caused by delayed treatment as two examples of an indirect death toll wrought by the world pandemic.
One of my friends confessed recently that her aging mother is musing about assisted death because she can no longer tolerate the isolation of an assisted living environment where, for months at a time, not a single family member had been allowed to visit.
Further lockdowns prompted by the second wave have beaten down an already exhausted population, and some are simply ignoring restrictions on indoor gatherings.
That takes me back to my decision to pre-empt the travel advisory ban issued by the federal government.
Facing minus 20-degree weather locked inside in an apartment in Ottawa would make it far more likely that my attendance at risky indoor social gatherings would increase.
By travelling south, and exercising caution in masking, distancing, and social isolation, I fully expect to endure the winter with less risk of receiving or transmitting the COVID virus than would have happened in Ottawa.
The only issue we were truly concerned about was the trip to our destination, as we travelled through three different airports.
But the measures taken before we got on board, including temperature taking and masking on flights, led to a safe arrival.
Our commitment to good COVID avoidance practices will not waver. But it is much easier to stay safe in the sand than the snow.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.