Concerns arise as snowbirds flock to the Valley

Warmer weather may bring a new public health hazard to the Mid-Ohio Valley — “snowbirds.” Some of them, having spent the winter in warmer climes, may be bringing more than their luggage back with them.

What to do about them is a challenge public health officials should be considering, if they have not already.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of residents of northern states leave home during the winter, in order to escape the cold and snow. After a few months in Florida, Arizona or some other sunny state, they come back.

Interstate travel has become a worry, however, because of COVID-19. At least some of the returning snowbirds — many of them older people — may have picked up the coronavirus while they were away. Some may be asymptomatic, unaware they pose threats to friends and neighbors they have not seen for months.

Unfortunately, Florida is a COVID-19 hot spot. Last week, the state had confirmed 8,010 cases of the disease — and 128 deaths from it.

Florida’s online COVID-19 website reports of those who have tested positive for the virus, 293 are NOT residents of the state.

Almost beyond doubt, some of them are seasonal residents of Florida. In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice already has taken what some consider harsh steps to keep people fleeing COVID-19 in areas such as New York from infecting people here. It is a different matter to figure out how to handle those who are merely coming home.

One strategy might be to identify snowbirds, if that is possible, and ask them to undergo COVID-19 testing as soon as they return home.

Ohio has already had a tough time, though not nearly to the extent of some other regions of the country, thanks to early action by Gov. Mike DeWine. Minimizing the risk of transmission from residents of our region who spent the winter elsewhere needs to be an important part of the public health campaigns.


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