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Some Snowbirds Headed North Are Being Told To Stay In Their Southern Nests

Vicki Jauron
Babylon and Beyond via Getty Images

Mike Herrick and his wife, Jane, have been heading from their home on Lake Superior in Herbster, Wis., to Tucson, Ariz., for the past 11 winters. They were hoping to return home at the end of April. Then Herrick discovered that local officials had asked some homeowners not to return.

If they couldn't leave, he wondered if his landlord would charge them rent to stay longer.

"It's expensive to live here on a rental basis," said Herrick. "But if things took a turn for the worse, where you are advised not to travel at all? I don't think we'd have an option then; we're going to have to stay here."

As coronavirus cases surge, some snowbird residents who exchange the warmth of the South for the isolation of their homes up North want to go home. But officials in their states are telling seasonal and second-home owners that now might not be the time to return.

Wisconsin residents such as Herrick can head home, but part-time­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ residents are urged to stay away. State officials say anyone who returns should isolate themselves for two weeks.

Steve McHugh and his wife, Mary, have been under self-quarantine at their house on Wisconsin's Madeline Island after driving 26 hours north from their rental home in Venice, Fla.

"And we're basically locked down outside of doing the daily walk," he said.

McHugh is taking it in stride. He's even sharing scenes of the island on social media for others stuck indoors.

On another island more than 1,000 miles away, officials in North Haven, Maine, recently barred travel for seasonal and second-home owners. They make up 85% of the town's tax base, according to Jon Demmons, chairperson of the North Haven Select Board.

"It's a tough position, you know, to be like, 'Well, we really don't want you to come in, but we really want you to come,' " he said.

The board changed its order to a request after complaints from outside residents. But the island has only one small clinic, and an influx of thousands of seasonal residents worries him.

Maine's Gov. Janet Mills has said that if people think they can escape the virus by fleeing North, think again.

"They cannot escape it because it is here," Mills said. "It is everywhere."

Governors in Wisconsin and Minnesota have banned unnecessary travel, ordering people to stay home.

Dennis Rysdahl, CEO of Bluefin Bay Family Resorts on Minnesota's North Shore, said his company manages about 100 homes. He said some seasonal homeowners are still planning to return.

"A lot of people feel it's safer here because it's so uncrowded," Rysdahl said.

Marlys Graff and her husband, Dick, usually head to their seasonal home in northern Wisconsin from Titusville, Fla., by early May. Now their plans are on hold. She hopes not to spend the summer in Florida.

"We really don't want to be here. But we're not worrying about that yet," she said. "Really, this whole thing is day to day. Everything changes day to day."

Copyright 2020 Wisconsin Public Radio

Danielle Kaeding

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