WASHINGTON (WFFF/WWTI) — Two days after Canada announced plans to allow fully-vaccinated Americans to cross the border, those hoping to finally visit our neighbors to the north, or vice versa, got some frustrating news. The U.S. will continue to ban non-essential travel from Canada through at least August 21.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is among those criticizing the federal government following the Wednesday announcement. In a written statement, he said:
As Canada prepares to further open the border next month, the United States is failing to reciprocate, jeopardizing an already tenuous recovery for thousands of businesses, families, and communities across Upstate New York. It is critical for the United States to level the playing field and create a uniform system, following the science and data, to safely, and finally, reopen the border for those vaccinated, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that happens as swiftly as possible.
Each month the closure has been extended, local leaders have become increasingly fed up, with anger directed mostly toward the Canadian government. The fact that a majority of summer tourism from Canada has now been wiped out by a U.S. decision is a curveball that few anticipated.
“The way I would put it is that, if there were a U.S. vs. Canada Olympic Games, and there was an event called ‘border,’ right now, Canada is racing ahead toward the gold,” said Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. “And the U.S. can’t get out of the starting block.”
Douglas said he’s dumbfounded by the decision, and he’s far from the only one. Aside from Schumer, a wide range of other officials from Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire have weighed in. “This decision by the federal government to once again delay border crossings with Canada is absurd,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. “It harms our small businesses and families, and does not follow the science. Canada has announced they will open their borders to fully vaccinated Americans, and it’s time the United States follows suit.”
Douglas said it’s been a catastrophe for summer tourism and local businesses, because not only are they losing customers, but some have lost employees. “People from one company who have a plant here in Plattsburgh can’t get here to do essential work, because they’re being told they’re not essential. They’re making no reasonable exceptions whatsoever,” Douglas said. “Even if you’re not ready for a general reopening, just amend some of the essential category definitions as a first step. Allow access to property, to family. Allow access for business interests.”
As tough as it has been for businesses, families are feeling a keener emotional strain. Heather Kienle is an American living in Montreal with her husband and 4-year-old daughter. She is originally from New York and has a mother in the states, battling cancer. While she can visit as a U.S. citizen, her husband cannot.
“I was hoping and thinking that we would see some sort of opening even for fully-vaccinated Canadians—because my husband and I are both fully vaccinated—so we thought that would work in our favor entering the U.S., but it is very surprising and frustrating to see what they did.”
“This frustrating decision only compounds the challenges facing families separated by the border, as well as local business owners, and continues to hamper the North Country’s economic recovery and defies logic,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik. “President Biden’s failure to reopen the northern border, especially given Canada’s recent decision to reopen the border to fully vaccinated American travelers in August, is absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable.”