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Snowbirds must weigh decision to return to SWFL amid uptick in COVID-19

People who spend part of their time up north and the other part in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state must decide what they will do during the time they would normally travel down south.

We spoke to a few northerners Wednesday, who say the continued rise in daily reported cases could be a deal breaker when assessing a return to the region. And a health expert we spoke to said, once here, it’s not easy to stay indoors with all the amenities, including the beach, the area has to offer. But prevention is still possible.

We all know beaches in Southwest Florida are busy in the winter months.

Jack Denneboom is a snowbird from Canada who calls Naples home during the tourism season in the state. He is concerned about the current daily numbers reported by the department of health.

“I think Florida needs to take it seriously,” Denneboom said.

Denneboom says he normally is very active as a community member when it comes to the local economy during season.

“I bought a car down there last year. We hit your grocery stores and go to restaurants and rent boats we play golf,” Denneboom said. “When we are down there, I spend $200 on dinner, and we go out to dinner five times a week. That’s a huge impact on the economy and tourist [industry].”

Denneboom says they take full advantage of all the beautiful things Southwest Florida has to offer, but, this year, they might not be able to enjoy them.

“Our expectation is we aren’t going to be there this year,” Denneboom said. “And it’s sad. It’s sad.”

Denneboom says he hopes to return to the region this winter and support the local economy, but said he will continue to wait and see if cases begin to come down first.

“Me and my friends, we’re mostly retired, and we want to go to our homes in Florida,” he said. “But, also, most of us are over 65, and we’re saying, ‘Do we want to go to Florida and get sick?’”

Denneboom is not the only one thinking the same thing.

“I think people that were here and the snowbirds are going to hesitate about coming down this year,” said Lin Lapierre in Naples.

The percent of tests coming back positive are nearing 20%.

“People don’t generally follow rules,” Eric Lee Dicken said.

“The bars and everything I’m concerned with that,” Lapierre said.

Dr. Bindu Mayi, a professor at Nova Southeastern University with a Ph.D. in microbiology, says it’s true Florida is a hard state to stay indoors away from people.

“Our beaches are too beautiful,” Mayi said. “Socially, I think our makeup may be more of an enticement to be outside, have a pool party and go to the beach.”

But Mayi says we need to tighten up our precautions against the virus.

“This is still preventable,” Mayi said. “We can still function as a society. We just need to be smart about this. It’s a virus, and the virus needs more bodies to infect. And, if we deprive them of those bodies, it starts to end.”

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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