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New business ventures help Canadian snowbirds circumvent a closed U.S. land border –



Despite the Canada-U.S. land border closure to non-essential traffic, Canadian snowbirds Bernard Loiselle and Sylvie Charbonneau are on their way to Florida — in their RV.

“Finally, we’re going,” said Loiselle, 57, from a road stop near Albany, N.Y. “The weather in Quebec was getting cold.”

The couple from Marieville, Que., southeast of Montreal, live in their RV year-round and spend the winter in Florida. This year, however, they faced a problem because they can’t drive their mobile home across the United States border during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But that problem was solved when they learned of a new service offered by KMC Transport.

The Quebec company flies snowbirds on a chartered plane from an airport just outside Montreal to nearby Plattsburgh, N.Y. KMC employees also drive the snowbirds’ vehicles to the Plattsburgh airport so, after landing, the passengers can continue their journey down south. 

“It was great to — from the plane — see our RV down there, just waiting for us,” said Loiselle. 

Loiselle and Charbonneau on Thursday, just before they boarded their flight from Montreal Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport to nearby Plattsburgh, N.Y., to begin their migration south. (submitted by Sylvie Charbonneau)

Despite soaring COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S. and Canada’s advisory not to travel abroad, many snowbirds are determined to head south this winter. 

Although Canadians can’t drive to the U.S. due to the land border closure, they can fly to the country. But that still creates a problem for snowbirds who want to take their vehicles down south. 

In response, several transport companies have come up with new ways to help snowbirds — and their cars — cross the border. 

KMC ships vehicles to the U.S. sunbelt for snowbirds. But the fee can be prohibitive to transport an RV — around $4,300.

So owner and president Michael Couturier devised a cheaper option: starting in late October, he arranged charter flights for snowbirds to Plattsburgh, plus transport service for their vehicles.

Customers pay $500 per seat on the plane and $1,000 for the vehicle transport. As a commercial transport company, KMC can bring vehicles into the U.S., despite the border restrictions, Couturier said.

“Every commercial transaction at the border is considered essential,” he said. “We’ve got to have all the paperwork, and then we are allowed to do it.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed to CBC News that there are no restrictions on Canadians importing vehicles to the United States during the land border closure.

Warning to snowbirds

KMC flies to Plattsburgh twice each weekday. Couturier said the nine-seater plane is always full. 

The added business has been a big boost for the company, which normally focuses on transporting RVs to dealers.

That side of the business has slowed during the pandemic, said Couturier, but catering to snowbirds has allowed him to keep all his 35 workers employed.

“If it wasn’t for snowbirds, the company would be in trouble this year,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for us.”

WATCH: Canada’s prime minister urges vigilance as cases spike:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned to the steps of Rideau Cottage where he made an impassioned plea to Canadians to slow the spread of the COVID virus. 2:25

Meanwhile, the federal government continues to warn Canadians to avoid international travel during the pandemic. 

“People are safest when they stay at home,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a news conference on Tuesday. 

However, the message hasn’t deterred eager snowbirds. Some argue they will be safe, because they have COVID-19 medical insurance and plan to stick to their gated community at their destination. 

“[You] just do your groceries, you go back to your RV and you have your supper there and that’s it,” said Loiselle.

Helicopter rides for snowbirds

Jeremy Rood’s parents were still keen to go to Florida this winter, but wanted to take both their car and their Labrador, Abby. So the helicopter pilot came up with a solution that his employer, Great Lakes Helicopter in Cambridge, Ont., has turned into a business. 

The company picks up snowbirds at the Hamilton, Ont. airport and helicopters them just across the border to Buffalo, N.Y. Then, Rood’s friend — who runs a transport company — transports the passengers’ vehicles, typically on a flatbed truck, to the Buffalo airport. 

“My parents wanted to get to Florida for the winter and I said, ‘No problem, I’ll make sure you guys get down there,'” said Rood. “We put our heads together and ended up with this little thing that we’re doing here.”

Pilot Jeremy Rood flew his mother, Diane, his father and their dog from Hamilton to Buffalo. He also transported their car, so the snowbird couple could have their vehicle with them during their winter in Florida. (submitted by Jeremy Rood)

Since starting the service in late October, Great Lakes Helicopter has flown 30 passengers and has hundreds more bookings. The cost for a couple to fly in their own private helicopter and transport their car is $1,900. Pets are welcome onboard. 

Rood said he’s not surprised by the brisk business, despite the pandemic. 

“We have long, cold winters here,” he said. “You’re not able to get outside, stay fit, stay active.”

Serving snowbirds due to popular demand

On the West Coast, the winters may not be as cold, but many snowbirds there still want to head south — and take their cars. 

That created an opportunity for Bidbuy Importers based in Blaine, Wash. The company traditionally imports vehicles to private buyers and dealers.

But this year it has branched out to also transport snowbirds’ vehicles from the Vancouver area to U.S. sunbelt states or to closer destinations, such as the Seattle airport. 

Jayde McElroy, vice-president of marketing and sales with Bidbuy Importers, is also helping snowbirds on the West Coast travel south. The service costs from $500 to upwards of $3,000. (submitted by Jayde McElroy)

Jayde McElroy, Bidbuy’s vice-president of marketing and sales, said the company took on snowbird clients due to popular demand.

“When the border shut down, we received so many inquiries from snowbirds that were wondering if we could help them out,” he said. “At first, we didn’t know because it is not something we’ve done.”

So far, Bidbuy has transported 40 cars. The company has about 100 more booked over the next couple of months. Costs range from around $500 to upwards of $3,000, depending on the type of vehicle and the distance it’s travelling. 

When asked about helping snowbirds go south during the pandemic, McElroy said he’s happy to help them escape winter. 

“You never know how long this is gonna go on for. You got to enjoy your life.” 

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Who's getting sick (and who's not) in Nova Scotia's second wave –



With the onset of COVID’s second wave in Nova Scotia, the picture of who is getting sick in this province has changed. 

“It is focused in that 18 to 35 demographic,” Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday in a briefing.

“That is just the nature of this virus when you get it in an age demographic where social activity is an important part of the way they live.”

All age groups had cases during the first wave, but the focus turned to outbreaks among seniors as COVID-19 spread from the community to staff and residents in the province’s nursing homes. 

The first wave

Just over half of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 cases from March to the end of September were people of prime working age, between 20 and 59 years old. 

A further 21 per cent fit into the 60 to 79 age bracket, and 17 per cent were over 80 years old. About 10 per cent were 19 and under. 

Overall, 61 per cent of the cases were women and 39 per cent were men. 

The outbreak at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax alone accounted for 345 cases between staff and residents. Smaller outbreaks were reported in at least seven other long-term care or seniors facilities around the province.

Fifty-three residents at the Northwood Halifax Campus, Nova Scotia’s largest long-term care facility, died of COVID-19 during the first wave. (Robert Short/CBC)

More residents in long-term care tend to be women, as women have a longer life expectancy than men. Staff in long-term care are also more likely to be female. 

Experts in aging and long-term care have said this is one reason why the first wave showed an uneven gender split that was weighted toward women. 

The second wave

At this point in Nova Scotia’s second wave — which Strang said began at the start of October — the age and gender split looks very different.

Between Oct. 1 and Strang’s briefing on Nov. 24, a full 71 per cent of COVID-19 cases fell in the 20 to 39 age bracket. Trailing that group were people between 40 and 59 years old, who made up 13 per cent of the cases. 

Ten per cent of the cases were 0 to 19 years old, and seven per cent were 60 to 79. 

No cases had been recorded in the 80 and older age bracket as of Nov. 24.

The gender split has also switched, with 55 per cent of cases in the second wave being male and 45 per cent female. 

What’s to come

The second wave is not over and it is still possible that older age groups or nursing homes could get hit hard again, which is why the province has set up isolation units in six long-term care homes and hospitals

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, speaks during the COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 24. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Younger adults are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, although it can happen

“If you look at the vast majority of our positive cases in the last several weeks, they’ve been young adults,” Strang said.

“Lots of social life, going out to work…. as we’re testing contacts, there’s been a number who’ve been asymptomatic. But there’s also been many who have very mild symptoms.” 

And that can be problematic. 

Strang said the very fact that young people are experiencing mild symptoms — or none at all — makes them excellent transmitters of a virus that isn’t going away any time soon.


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Canada sets another daily record with nearly 6,000 new coronavirus cases – Global News



Canada reported just under 6,000 new coronavirus infections Friday, setting another daily record as health officials across the country continue their pleas to the public to slow the spread of the pandemic.

The 5,963 new cases reported Friday brought the national total to 358,741. Of those, 286,500 patients are now considered to have recovered from the virus.

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‘Majority’ of Canadians should be vaccinated against coronavirus by September: Trudeau

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Officials also reported another 96 deaths over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 11,894. Another 2,350 patients are receiving care for COVID-19 in hospital, as the country inches closer to the peak of over 3,000 hospitalizations seen in early May.

Friday’s cases more than tripled the highest number of daily cases seen in April, when the first wave of the pandemic crested. It’s also the eighth new record set this month alone as the virus spreads like wildfire in communities across the country.

As cases explode, Canadians are admitting to feeling fatigued by the ongoing pandemic. A new Ipsos poll released Friday found nearly half of respondents are getting tired of public health measures, even though nearly 90 per cent still intend to take them seriously.

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On Twitter, Canada’s chief medical health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that attitude was the only defence against further spread of COVID-19.

“As with our last effort to bend the curve, this won’t be a quick solution, but a test of our determination and endurance,” she wrote.

“With resilience and resolve, let’s focus on what we can do to protect our families, friends & communities.”

Provinces and territories are also anxiously awaiting news on when a vaccine will be publicly available.

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On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a “majority of Canadians” should be vaccinated by next September “if all goes according to plan,” citing the country’s top doctors.

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One of those doctors, deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo, said that timeline was “optimistic” but added he shares that optimism with the prime minister.

Njoo and other officials said this week that they expect a first round of six million vaccination doses to be delivered to provinces and territories in early 2021, and expect to have at least one vaccine candidate approved by the end of this year.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Dr. Njoo responds to Trudeau’s statement that majority of Canadians could be vaccinated by next September'

Coronavirus: Dr. Njoo responds to Trudeau’s statement that majority of Canadians could be vaccinated by next September

Coronavirus: Dr. Njoo responds to Trudeau’s statement that majority of Canadians could be vaccinated by next September

Ontario set a new daily record itself Friday after reporting 1,855 new cases along with 20 new deaths. The province’s health minister said the staggering total was not unexpected, as restrictions in hard-hit areas like Toronto only kicked in on Monday.

Christine Elliot said the rising infections are coming in part from some of the events and celebrations that have taken place around the province over the past few weeks.

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Quebec reported 1,269 more infections and another 38 deaths. The province’s death toll, already the highest in the country, is approaching 7,000.

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Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported 329 and 344 new cases, respectively. Both provinces also saw new deaths: Saskatchewan reported that four more people had died, while another 14 deaths occurred in Manitoba.

New restrictions came into effect in Saskatchewan Friday banning all team sports and limiting capacity at public venues like churches, movie theatres and casinos to 30 people.

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Alberta added another 1,227 new cases and nine more deaths. The province has more active cases than any other jurisdiction in Canada and has the highest seven-day infection rate in the country, according to federal data, with 209 cases per 100,000 people.

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New measures came into effect Friday to help blunt the spike in cases. Private indoor social gatherings are banned, capacity limits have been imposed on stores and students between grades 7 and 12 switch to remote learning on Monday.

The province’s justice minister said 700 more peace officers have been given the power to enforce those restrictions.

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British Columbia also set a new record with 911 new cases, while 11 more deaths were also reported. Hospitalizations also topped 300 for the first time ever.

Cases are continuing to surge nearly three weeks after stringent new restrictions were imposed in parts of the province where infections are high, suggesting they haven’t been effective. Health officials said workplaces, which were not included in the orders, have become a major source of transmission.

In Atlantic Canada, three provinces reported a combined 25 new cases, though no new deaths were reported. Prince Edward Island did not release new testing data Friday.

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Four more cases were reported in Nunavut and another three were added in Yukon, while the Northwest Territories did not report any new infections. That territory is the only jurisdiction in Canada with no active cases.

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As of 9 p.m. ET, more than 61.5 million infections have been confirmed worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll has surpassed 1.44 million.

The United States continues to lead the world in both cases and deaths, both of which have grown at alarming rates this month. The country surpassed 13 million cases on Friday, while over 264,000 people have died to date.

— With files from Global’s Rachel Gilmore and the Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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B.C. now has more than double Ontario's active cases per capita – CTV News Vancouver



At the end of a difficult week that saw several records shattered for COVID-19 infections and deaths in B.C., the province now has more than twice as many active cases per capita as Ontario.

The federal government makes daily, rolling average, and active case counts available in an infographic, and the contrast is stark: while the prairie provinces and Nunavut struggle with soaring infections per capita, B.C. is slowly catching up and in far worse shape than the two most populous provinces in Canada.

As of Friday, B.C. has 189 active COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 135 in Quebec and just 88 in Ontario. Alberta (321), Saskatchewan (268), Nunavut (387), and Manitoba (646) saw the highest active per capita infections.

CTV News asked provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry whether she has considered adopting some of Ontario’s strategies, since it’s faring better in the second wave, such as a colour-coded notification system making it clear and easy for people to know what restrictions are in effect.

“We all have our own pandemic, and as we know the issues that we’re dealing with are focussed in some areas and are different in different areas of the province, so our approach has always been to look at what is happening here and tailor our approach,” insisted Henry. “Many of our measures are ones we put in measures some time ago that Ontario has included in some of their colour zones now. It’s not like we can compare what we’re doing. we’re doing the things we need to do to manage what we’re dealing with here in B.C.”

The provincial health officer has faced intense criticism and even outright anger from various industries and sectors for implementing new rules and restrictions that aren’t clear or communicated directly to stakeholders, with murky rules between similar businesses that are clarified days later. Experts have warned that kind of confusion can undermine public health efforts.

CTV News pointed out the daily infections keep growing despite new restrictions implemented more than a week ago, and while Henry acknowledged she’s considering new measures, she also defended the current set of restrictions, including a “social lockdown,” and pointed out it takes time to see results.

“We still are in a place where we’re not surprised to see cases going up, obviously we want to see that corner bend,” she said. “I’m talking daily with my colleagues about what’s going on, what the situation is, what are the things we need to think about in terms of addressing them and what measures can we look at modifying or changing, so those are conversations we can continue to have and we will have a better idea next week.”

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