Thrill-seeking American floaters who land in Canada won’t have to quarantine
SARNIA, ONT. -- American thrill-seekers who drift onto Canadian shores during this weekend’s Port Huron Float Down will not have to quarantine, and they’ll get a ride home courtesy of Canadian taxpayers.
That’s the word from Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who is upset that the annual unsanctioned event is set to go ahead on Sunday, in spite of the global pandemic.
“This is so different this year with COVID, and Port Huron and Michigan is a hotbed of COVID cases.”
The event typically attracts anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 people who hop into inflatable tubes, air mattresses, life rafts, or anything that floats and ride the current down the St. Clair River heading south.
Sometimes many end up on Canadian shores, depending on the wind. That’s why Bradley is so concerned.
“I think that they should be quarantined, and they should be quarantined at their cost because we’re making Canadians do that if they come back from wherever, so why wouldn’t we apply that same principle here. I know it’s probably smarter and faster to get them just back home, but that puts our first responders at risk.”
Bradley said the event can’t be stopped because it’s being organized by unknown parties in Michigan.
Meanwhile, first responders on both sides of the river are preparing for a busy day.
The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards will be leading the operation with OPP, Sarnia police, ambulance and fire crews taking part.
Sarnia Deputy Police Chief Owen Lockhart says it will be all hands on deck.
“Law enforcement will be wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) if they have any contact with any floaters that come on shore. We’ll be doing contact tracing, keeping track of anyone who’s landing on our shores. We suggest everybody bring identification this year. It’ll be more important than any other year. We need to know if you’re a Canadian or American citizen.”
Normally the floaters will get in on the Michigan side at the lighthouse where the river opens up to Lake Huron, then they’ll float south/southwest about eight nautical miles, ending up in the town of Marysville, MI.
Sarnia resident Ellwood Phillips believes it should be stopped.
“It should be banned. Just the expense that we’ve gone through, having to have our police out there, harbour patrol and all the rest.”
Ray and Diane Roebock of Sarnia think it’s just good fun, “The odd one or two that drifts over here, just leave them alone and let them go home,” said Ray.
According to the joint statement from the coast guards, in 2016 about 1,500 floaters ended up in Canada, while in 2014 there was a drowning death associated with the event.
The Canadian border remains closed due to COVID-19 until at least Aug. 21.