Border could open June 21

Sparse traffic crosses the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge on May 20. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — After being closed for nearly three months, the U.S.-Canadian border is set to open as early as June 21.

The members of the control room — a group of officials from several surrounding counties overseeing the reopening of the north country — learned on Thursday that traffic might be able to cross the three international bridges in the north country in less than three weeks.

Those were some of the developments that came out during a Watertown visit from Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid, who’s the leader of the Control Room and represents the state.

Earlier in the day, the board of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency expressed concern that it hadn’t heard anything about the border opening when the summer tourism season was finally opening up.

The closure of the border for nonessential travel was initially set to expire April 30, but that was subsequently extended until last week. The two countries have announced that the closure will now last for at least another 30 days, or through June 21.

“But there’s nothing guaranteed,” said David Zembiec, deputy CEO of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp.

Traffic plummeted more than 60 percent in April compared to April 2019 following the March 21 border closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The visit by the parks commissioner, also attended by Seth Belt, the governor’s regional representative, included a discussion about testing for the virus for people who work in jobs that could cause them to come in contact with people with the illness.

Health insurance should pay for the testing for people in those occupations, but some insurance companies have refused to pay for them. The state is working at solving the issue, said Scott A. Gray, Jefferson County Legislature chairman.

There was some grumbling about high school graduations, so the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease and Control & Prevention released some guidelines on Thursday that people should follow.

“We were able to clean up some issues,” Mr. Gray said, adding that he lobbied for better communication by the state during the pandemic.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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