This editorial appeared in the Press-Republican on July 7:
PLATTSBURGH — For months on end, north country officials have been pleading with Canada to consider allowing some cross-border traffic to resume, but they haven’t had much success.
Now, with U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Charles Schumer on board, hopefully some progress can be made soon as summer is now well underway.
“For the last two months, we haven’t seen any progress and that is not acceptable,” Schumer said during a visit to Plattsburgh [July 6]. “It is unacceptable to have no progress when summer is the season, more than any other, where we here in the north country and throughout New York state need the Canadians for our economic livelihood. And they want to come here.”
The border was closed to all non-essential travel at the outset of the [novel coronavirus] pandemic in March 2020. The restrictions have been extended by 30-day increments since then.
It seems that, several months into vaccination rollout, the time for some movement on border restrictions is now in order. Case numbers are down in New York state, and way down in the north country as the percentage of those vaccinated in our region is high. Vaccines have been rolling out slower in Canada, which seems to be the impetus for [its] government not wanting to budge on border restrictions.
It’s great to have the Senate majority leader firmly on our side on this issue. Schumer’s sentiments echoed what local officials have been saying for months. Led by North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, local leaders have been calling for unilateral changes where vaccinated Canadians would be welcome to cross the border into the United States.
Schumer’s colleague, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, along with north country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, state Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, state Sen. Daniel Stec, Clinton County Legislature Chairman Mark Henry, town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman and city of Plattsburgh Mayor Chris Rosenquest and others have all joined Douglas in lobbying Canada for some relief.
That’s a healthy mix of Democrats and Republicans throwing their weight into what clearly is, and should be, a non-partisan issue. We all want commerce, and we all want safety.
The problem with a unilateral plan, however, was that if Canadians entered the [United States], they would have to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Canada. Not many Canadians would be willing to do that just for a day of shopping in Plattsburgh. But Canada has recently let up on the quarantine requirement, and let’s hope that will pave the way for more restrictions to be dropped.
It’s difficult to see the justification for Canada’s rules when [it] would not allow more than 3,500 people inside the Bell Centre in Montreal [on the night of July 5] for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, yet about 25,000 people were allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder unmasked outside the arena. Another head scratcher is that non-essential Canadians are allowed to fly into the [United States] but cannot drive their cars across the border.
In addition to our economy being aided by cross-border traffic, there is also the human aspect as many families are still being separated due to the restrictions. Let’s hope Sen. Schumer’s attention on this matter will bring leaders from both countries to the table soon in order to hatch a plan that works for reopening the border as much and as safely as they can.
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