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Cautious enthusiasm to announcement that U.S. will open northern land border

WAMC/Pat Bradley
U.S. Border crossing at Champlain, NY

The Biden administration says the U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic. International visitors will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Northern border interests are cautiously optimistic over Tuesday night’s announcement by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that the U.S. will open its border to Canadian travelers by early November.

Senator Schumer issued statement that “he has direct confirmation from Department of Homeland Security (Secretary) Alejandro Mayorkas that the U.S. plans to reopen the U.S.-Canadian border to nonessential vaccinated travelers by early November.”

The Democrat added, “Very soon, the link between New York and our northern neighbors will finally be re-established…ending a frustrating cycle of waiting for everyone involved.”

Wednesday morning, Vermont Governor Phil Scott issued a statement that he had heard the same from the White House the night before.

The border has been closed since the pandemic took hold in March 2020.

Early Wednesday the North County Chamber welcomed the news. Vice President of Marketing Kristy Kennedy says they are cautiously optimistic.

“I think until it is officially released and announced and all the details of what the restrictions are going to be, the proof of vaccination, is there testing? How it’s going to roll out? We are welcoming the news and we want to see where it goes," said Kennedy. "I don’t think we have any hesitation that it’s not going to happen so it will happen. But we’re still waiting official confirmation of the date and we just want to see what is actually going to have to take place for the travel to occur.”

Democratic Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman echoes the Chamber’s wariness.

“We have seen over the last eighteen months or so a number of times that we thought we were at the point where the border was going to be reopening and there were some false starts. And everybody has learned that it really is in the details. Those details matter," said Cashman. "So I want to see the formal white paper of sorts that details the requirements. Full vaccination is my belief going to be the requirement. But the devil’s in the details.”

State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat whose 115th district abuts the border, says he is relieved to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The most important part of this is that family members now have a chance to see each other in person. And of course how important that is to our economy here in the North Country. Certainly we’re happy with this news, cautiously optimistic. Just can’t wait for the day that we have a full reopening.”

45th District Republican state Senator Dan Stec calls the announcement welcome and long overdue.

“Our neighbors to the north did this months ago, opened their border to the vaccinated Americans that wanted to enter Canada and haven’t seemed to have any issues with it. So all we’re really doing here is reciprocating. We’re reciprocating months later. And months later where now we’ve had even more people get vaccinated." Stec adds, "You know I’m confident that it’ll happen because it should happen. The Canadians did it with success several months ago and there’s no reason for us not to be able to reciprocate.”

During her COVID briefing Wednesday morning, Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul mentioned the new development.

“This is good news for the communities along western New York, the northern border who really are so integrated with the Canadian communities," notes the Governor. "I applaud their decision to reopen the border. It’ll be coinciding with the opening of the international traffic on flights. And they heard from other governors and elected officials as well so that is very, very good news. It’s something I’ve raised since I took office.”

Canada reopened its border on August 9th to vaccinated U.S. travelers.

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