Snowbirds back home early and self-isolating

Snowbirds returning from Palm Springs, Calif. said they felt safe in their gated community, took precautions while traveling and are now self-isolating back home in Prince George.

"We usually stay to ourselves anyway so self-isolating isn't that difficult," Leona Wilkinson said during a phone call from her home in Prince George. 

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Leona and Gary Wilkinson have been going to the same resort for 10 years.

"You know everyone within the compound and most of us are Canadians," Leona said. 

They got there on Jan. 15 and intended to stay until April 1 but when they heard about the coronavirus threat they thought it better to return home sooner rather than later. 

They returned on March 18.

The Wilkinsons are self-proclaimed news junkies and started each morning at the resort by tuning into the radio for Canadian reports and then continued to listen in throughout the day, Leona said.

"In the resort there's about 100 trailers and because about 90 per cent are Canadians - we're snowbirds - there's lots of gossip that goes around - are they going to close the borders and did you hear that so-and-so is sick and should we be going home?" Leona said.

Gary said they left before it got too crazy.

"When one of us gets a sniffle or something, us Canadians want to come home because Canada is our safe haven," Leona said. "So as long as we're healthy and fine and have our happy hour we're good and don't want to go home."

They left before there were any COVID-19 cases reported in their community. 

They heard there were some around Los Angeles but in the Palm Springs area there were only three cases reported around the time they left.

"It was calm where we were near Palm Springs," Leona said. "I don't think we quite realized what the pandemic was going to be but we did want to come home. We have kids so our children are grown adults who were saying 'come on mom and dad, get your bums home now'."

There were no challenges crossing the border, Leona said. 

They weren't asked any questions at all. 

"They just gave us a pamphlet saying when you go home self-isolate, don't go out," Leona said. "But no, the border was not a challenge. We were afraid because we heard rumours they might close the borders and that we might be stuck down in the states and that's another reason we decided to come home earlier."

They returned to their home in Prince George to find a house full of groceries, thanks to their firefighter son.

The hardest part was trying to explain why grandma hugs were not forthcoming after such a long absence.

"My other son who lives right next door was out and about and was keeping his distance with my three-year-old grandson holding his arms out waiting for a hug," Leona said. "I couldn't touch him so that's hard. And we also have two little granddaughters who live about 10 blocks away we can't go near either."

Leona believes because they are seniors that it's easier for them to remain in isolation.

"It's easier for us to stay at home," Leona said. "I love to read, we bake, we're good."

Gary goes for walks along the river where he places bird feeders. He rarely sees anyone else and knows to keep his distance.

"So that's his outing," Leona said. "So now our community of snowbirds are keeping in contact and everyone is reporting as they come home that they are safe. Because in our little gated community we're intact and there were no symptoms for any of us."

On the world scale, things are little different.

"Every generation has its problems and I think this is the worst one that we've seen," Leona said. "What's happening in Italy and Spain is really scary. "

Gary said when they were young, there was another disease to fear.

"We were scared of chicken pox and it swept the world much like this is doing now," Gary said about the coronavirus pandemic.

Leona talked about China, Cuba and Russia sending doctors to Italy to help battle COVID-19.

"The world comes together," she said. "And here in Prince George this community is always so wonderful. We have friends contacting us asking us if we need anything - and our children are doing the same. We live in a very giving community."

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