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North Country officials pleased with border reopening but concerned about Canadian requirements

WAMC/Pat Bradley
U.S.- Canada border at Champlain-Lacolle

The U.S. reopened its land borders to fully vaccinated nonessential travelers on Monday. Cross border interests in New York’s North Country are applauding the move. But they also don’t expect a flood of Canadians traveling south due to requirements the Canadian government is keeping for travel back into that country.

On August 9th, Canada opened its land border to U.S. travelers vaccinated against COVID-19. A number of measures are still in effect, including mandatory COVID-19 testing, before travelers can enter Canada.

Monday’s reopening of the border in both directions is a welcome and substantial step that will have a number of positive impacts, according to North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas. He is very happy that after a year and a half the border will open but adds there’s still a problem for travelers.

“The U.S. has made it pretty easy for Canadians to come in. It’s pretty much back to normal as long as you’re vaccinated. Any Canadian who is vaccinated can come to the border with that evidence and they’ll be asked a couple of questions and unless there’s a spot check occasionally they’ll be allowed on through pretty much like they always would have been," notes Douglas. "However a Canadian visitor can have a very easy time coming into the U.S. but before they turn around and go back home they have to have a test for COVID and that test has to have been done within 72 hours of their coming to the border to return to Canada.”

State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat whose 115th District abuts the Canadian border, is also happy the border is open but echoes concerns about Canadian barriers.

“Canadian travelers they still have to have a test within 72 hours and that can be burdensome and expensive for them. So we’re not going to get that leisure traveler. So that’s still a barrier. We’re still working on that. Happy to see some progress made but we need to keep pushing. And also we have many of our neighbors and our friends and myself that want to go across that border and there’s still that testing requirement. Because around here in the North Country it’s tough to get a test.”

Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York’s 21st district released a recorded statement as the U.S. opened its border to Canada. She noted people worked hard on a bipartisan basis to get the border open.

“We want to make sure that this border reopening is as smooth as possible. I will continue to work with our Customs and Border Protection Officers, as well as hear feedback from my constituents as to the reopening process. And we also will work to continue to strengthen our U.S.-Canadian economic ties and our broader friendship and cultural ties that are so important to the North Country.”

Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman was on the Interstate on Monday and says it was heartening to see numerous Quebec plates on cars traveling south.

“People are coming down here now. You know we need to continue to see more recalibration regarding the policies and the parities between the two countries. But we’ve hit the first milestone and that needs to be celebrated.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat from the Buffalo region near the Ontario border, announced a new $450 million "Bring Back Tourism, Bring Back Jobs" initiative coinciding with the reopening of the border.

“Tourism in our state when we’re doing well is a $117 billion industry, the third largest industry in our state. Hundreds of thousands of jobs associated with it." Governor Hochul adds, "It is the day we welcome back our back our international travelers. We have our Canadian tourists coming back. People in the North Country and western New York are very excited to start seeing license plates from Ontario and Quebec. It’s been too long. And I can see Canada from my house. And I’m very excited about seeing more traffic on the bridges as we cross over.”

Travelers entering the U.S. must provide proof of vaccination and verbally provide their reason for travel at the land border checkpoint.

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