On Aug. 9, Canada finally reopened its border to allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit.
The border between Canada and the United States had been closed to nonessential travelers since last year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Representatives of both countries monitored the situation and made periodic assessments about whether rules for cross-border traffic could be relaxed.
One of the things health care authorities have been reviewing closely is the rate of vaccinations in Canada and the United States. As more people became immunized, the likelihood of spreading the coronavirus was reduced. This would ensure that travel back and forth would be safer.
Earlier this month, Canadian officials announced that Americans could cross the border if they met specific criteria. These included providing documentation that they’ve been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada, giving proof that they tested negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival, be asymptomatic and register their information with the database ArriveCAN.
Many Americans welcomed this development. It allowed them to travel to Canada and visit with family or friends there.
But U.S. officials didn’t follow suit. At that time, they maintained the restrictions that have been in place for more than a year. And last week, they reaffirmed their decision to keep the border closed to nonessential travelers until at least Sept. 21.
“The delta variant is driving an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States,” the U.S Department of Homeland Security announced, according to a story published Aug. 19 by the CBC. “Canada and Mexico are also seeing increased case counts and deaths. … Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 between the United States and Canada poses an ongoing specific threat to human life or national interests.”
Elected officials and community leaders in Northern New York objected to the ongoing restrictions. This sentiment was echoed by others across the country who had hoped to see the rules loosened by this point.
“Travel restrictions are no longer protecting us from the virus; vaccines are,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president of public affairs and policy, according to a story published Wednesday by Forbes. “Every day that our land borders remain closed delays America’s economic and jobs recovery, causing greater damage to the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on travel and tourism. … For each month the status quo continues at the Canadian border, America’s No. 1 source market of inbound arrivals, the United States loses $1.5 billion in potential travel exports, leaving countless American businesses vulnerable.”
Many businesses in the north country depend upon Canadian customers. The close proximity of our two nations makes cross-border commerce very convenient and mutually beneficial.
This restriction affects vehicular traffic, not air travel. Canadians may fly into the United States for nonessential purposes.
But taking an airplane isn’t a practical way for people from Kingston, Ontario, to travel to Watertown. Local industries frequently patronized by Canadians have been hit hard by the border closure.
If Canada trusts its beefed-up process for entering the country to protect its citizens, why can’t we? While we agree that the delta variant is a serious concern, the spread is being proliferated primarily by those who aren’t yet vaccinated. People who have received their jabs are at low risk of becoming infected and developing COVID-19.
The U.S. government needs to re-examine this policy. We need to get traffic flowing across the border again, and there are effective ways to do this while ensuring people are safeguarded.