Salmon fishing in the Margaree River
My wife Marie and I are a mixed couple. She's Canadian and I am an American. For the past 15 years we have spent our winters in Florida and our summers in Nova Scotia.
We are not that unusual as there are lots of Canadians wintering in Florida and many Americans living in Canada. You can even buy a Canadian French-language newspaper in South Florida and get grits with breakfast in Canada if you know where to look.
Earlier this year, as an American, I was barred entry into Canada because of COVID, even though we knew we were clean of the virus as we had gone into self-imposed quarantine the first week of March while in Florida. Since we are retired and have a small online business, we have the luxury, not afforded to most, of staying at home and out of danger from the pandemic, regardless of location.
Old Dog New Tricks
COVID didn't inconvenience us much, as we tend to stay home a lot anyway, but it did require learning a few new tricks. Being somewhat familiar with biological warfare from my military days, we used that information to establish our new routine.
Since we were in an Orlando suburb, we were able to have supplies delivered in or we could pick up curbside at many locations. We set up a table in front of the garage for deliveries and then disinfected everything with hydrogen-peroxide. I even took the precaution of using the leaf blower to dissipate the air around the table if it was necessary to retrieve items like frozen goods immediately in the 90F Florida weather.
When we went for curbside pick ups we wore a mask when lowering the window. And when the attendant at Home Depot pulled down his mask to talk to me, I quickly raised the window. It was a case of mask down, window up, mask on, window down, mask down, window up, and so forth.
Was all this effort overkill? Probably. But we had less information then than we do now. We now know that the virus doesn't spread as easily on surfaces as once thought, but it still spreads that way. Spittle travels generally less than 6 feet but aerosols spread much further and hang in the air much longer. Granted, aerosols are less of a problem outside, where the air is moving, than inside -- but they are still a problem outside.
And lastly, viral load must be considered. The longer you stay exposed to the virus particles the more you inhale and the less chance your immune system can deal with them. So what would I do differently now that I know more? Nothing! I would make the same choices and take the same precautions.
Making The Right Decisions
Decision-making has two major parts, probability and consequence. Or, what is the probability an event will happen and what are the consequences if it does or doesn't happen. If you live in an area with many active COVID infections and you eat all your meals at indoor restaurants, hang out in bars and nightclubs at night, and go to church on Sunday where attendees sing elaborately and march up and down the isles, the probability of catching COVID is very high. Anything else is a crap shoot.
If you think wearing a mask is for sissies and you are 70 years old, overweight, have diabetes and heart disease, suffer from COPD but still smoke, and are downwind from pollution or a forest fire, then there's a high probability you might die from COVID. And we have learned, if someone catches COVID but has no symptoms, they can still have long term damage to organs and we know little about that so far. So the consequences of catching COVID can be quite severe.
Cape Breton Or Bust
Let's fast forward from March 2020 to November. This year, we arrived later in Canada than usual. In June, the Canadian government relented and allowed spouses and immediate family of Canadians to enter Canada as long as they quarantined for 2 weeks. So off we went in our RV. We wore masks and gloves at the gas pumps. We stayed at our usual campgrounds along the way without having to actually go inside to register and had no contacts with anyone until we reached the US/Canadian border in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
At the border crossing, the Canada customs agent instructed us to go directly to our destination and stop only for gas. We were not allowed to enter into any establishments and then, once home, had to strictly quarantine for 14 days. These were really no different than our own self-imposed rules in Florida or along the way. He told us we would be contacted by health officials during quarantine to make sure we were behaving ourselves. And we were each contacted twice, by phone, during the 14 days.
When passing from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia we went through a Nova Scotia checkpoint to see who we were, where we were going, why we were going, and don't stop except for gas and go to quarantine immediately. That was not because we were coming from the States but because we were entering Nova Scotia. We did as instructed. This was prior to the setting up of an Atlantic bubble where people within the 4 Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland) could travel freely within the bubble.
Please Get To The Point Already
OK! Nova Scotia has a population of just below one million and Atlantic Canada about 2.5 million. It has, like the rest of Canada, public healthcare for all. Thus, they have the incentive to keep their residents healthy. It's much less expensive that way you see.
Nova Scotia has had 1,144 COVID cases in 2020, as of today (November 17, 2020). The vast majority of the cases occurred prior to May. Today there are 21 active cases in Nova Scotia -- most of them new. We live on Cape Breton Island, population 150,000 in the Eastern Heath Zone which has had a total of 55 cases since the beginning. and none active at this time. In fact I don't think there has been a new case since June. There could be an uptick in cases as the winter sets in and people congregate indoors, but I have confidence the governments of Atlantic Canada will work hard and make the right decisions to keep their people safe.
We can live a near normal life. We can now travel freely within the Atlantic Canada bubble without quarantining. But even so, Nova Scotians wear masks indoors in public places, practice social distancing and avoid large groups even though there are few cases province-wide and no active cases in Cape Breton. It's required by law. Want to know how they do it? Check out this page.
Traditional music has a long history here in Cape Breton.
Yes, life is near normal here in Margaree Valley, with reasonable restrictions and we owe that partly to Nova Scotia health officials and the political leaders with the good sense to listen to the science. Though mostly, we owe it to the people of Nova Scotia who elected them and are friendly, loving, and caring for one another. But this attitude is also present Atlantic Canada wide. Who can ever forget the extraordinary hospitality of Gander, Newfoundland when international flights were grounded there on 9-11.
You see, I love both Canada and America. But I wish the USA and my fellow Floridians would learn something from their Canadian friends in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
See Why This Island is Canada’s Best Kept Secret