As the holidays come to a close, many families are in the process of readying their children for a return to in-person classes. However, this preparation may have been premature for some as Ontario announced on Thursday that it would be extending online learning for some elementary students until January 25 at least. This news comes amidst Ontario reporting a record-high number of new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and Friday, with 3,519 and 4,249 cases reported respectively. The postponement of in-person classes will not impact some northern Ontario public health unit regions, which will return to classes as planned on January 11. Ideally, teachers and students would be vaccinated before classes resume, however, the rollout of the vaccine has been slower than expected, so it is unclear as to when a majority of the population will be inoculated.
Regarding vaccinations, some Canadians have taken an interesting approach in order to ensure they are vaccinated. Despite the border with the United States being closed to non-essential travel, many Canadian snowbirds still elected to head south for the winter, as Canadians are allowed to fly into the United States for non-essential reasons. Now, even more people are choosing to head south because of a change in Florida’s vaccination plan.
Florida adjusted its vaccination plan last month to include non-citizen seniors aged 65 and older. The only requirement to receive the vaccination is to show identification. The shots are also being given at no cost, despite the privatized nature of the American health care system. This change in policy has led to long lineups and difficulties booking vaccination appointments in the state, but for Canadians who are in Florida who would otherwise be eligible for the vaccine at home, it is encouraging to know they can receive it abroad at no cost. Another popular snowbird destination state, Arizona, also confirmed that snowbirds will be eligible to receive the vaccine at the same time as local residents in the same age and health category.
The new vaccination rules in the United States have led to some people being more willing to travel. A company that charters private jets confirmed that around 20% of their passengers were flying to Florida in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and that inquiries into their service have increased since mid-December. Flying with a company that charters private jets is certainly safer than flying publicly, as they require a negative COVID-19 test before takeoff, but it is a prohibitively expensive plan for most, as seats range from $2500-4000.
Some people may find value in travelling in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine first, but travel insurance companies still advise against travelling during the pandemic. This recommendation comes again amidst increased requests for travel insurance as more Canadians are presumably looking to travel. Insurance broker Martin Firestone explained why Canadians looking to travel for a vaccination should be concerned about travelling to the United States:
My biggest concern is not the plane or getting COVID on the plane, my worry is access to the hospital down there once you’re there for the things that always went wrong and that’s why you bought travel insurance — broken hips, car accidents, stroke, heart attack.
Of course, if you are looking to travel, it is essential you have insurance, and that insurance covers COVID-19 complications. Many insurance companies now do cover COVID-19 complications as part of their plans, but hospital access in the United States may be limited in some areas, so make sure to evaluate the risks before you make any plans.
Of greater concern might be returning to Canada after you leave. The country recently announced new requirements for all air travellers to obtain a negative COVID test prior to boarding a flight into the country. This has left some Canadians stranded as they wait for a test, and the results, which can take several days to obtain.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are planning to travel make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a 14-day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.