Blaine prepares to welcome Canadians with open arms


Canadian health officials announced they will drop Covid-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated Canadians making short trips into the U.S. The new rule goes into effect Tuesday, November 30 and was met with open arms by Blaine residents and businesses that have gone nearly two years without their Canadian family members and customers.

The Public Health Agency of Canada announced November 19 that Canadians and permanent residents leaving Canada don’t need a Covid-19 test if they will return to Canada within 72 hours. Children under 12 and people medically unable to receive the vaccine are also able to now take short trips without a Covid-19 test. The exemption applies to both land and air travel.

“My kids were all calling me saying, ‘Mom! Mom! Have you heard the news?” said Blaine resident Allyson Grant, who has three children living in Canada. “My kids couldn’t wait to get vaccinated so they could travel and then they had to wait.”

Grant, a Canadian native, was able to obtain her green card September 2020 and move to Blaine to live with her husband and step-son. But this meant going over a year without seeing her three adult children. Once the Canada and U.S. border reopened partially to those fully vaccinated, she said travel still wasn’t an option because of the expense and hassle of getting a Covid-19 test.

“I was absolutely thrilled when the border reopened but the only complication was the Covid test,” Grant said. “To have my kids come down for the weekend, it would have been over $1,000.”

Canada partially opened its border for nonessential trips to fully vaccinated U.S. travelers in early August but required a Covid-19 test within 72 hours, which deterred many by complications such as the price of a Covid-19 test for travel, not covered by insurance, and the limited ability to find a test while the Delta variant was surging. The U.S. opened its border to fully vaccinated Canadian travelers November 8 without a test requirement, but the Canadian government had required a test for its citizens returning to the country until the most recent announcement. Fully vaccinated U.S. residents still need a Covid-19 test to enter Canada.

Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University, said 2,600 cars drove through the Peace Arch border crossing on November 8, less than one-third of the 8,000 people who traveled the same day in 2019.

Mike Hill, owner of Hill’s Chevron gas station of Peace Portal Drive, said he was delighted by the news. Hill’s phone started lighting up as soon as the news was out and said he noticed an immediate shift in the city’s

“It was the best news we’ve heard all year because it’s actually a true opening,” Hill said. “It’s what we’ve been waiting for. It’s an early Christmas present for us.”

Before the border closure, Hill’s Chevron was pumping 4,000 gallons of fuel per day. Now it gets that amount in a month. Hill said he saw gas consumption increase slightly after November 8, but only from about 500 gallons to 700 gallons per day.

“You have 3 million people in Lower Mainland, B.C. that were cut off,” Hill said. “That’s our livelihood.”

Cindy Toth, front-end manager at Cost Cutter, said the grocery store had mostly seen Canadians with U.S. properties visiting the store since November 8. Most of those were milk, cheese, wine, egg and yogurt purchases.

“It’s been a slow opening but it’s been nice,” she said of the grocery store that once catered 40 percent of its business to Canadians.

The Canadian government announced more border changes alongside the big news on dropping the Covid-19 test requirement for short trips. As of January 15, 2022, travelers who can currently enter Canada without being fully vaccinated, such as essential workers, will need to be fully vaccinated. This includes truck drivers, people reuniting with immediate or extended family (unvaccinated children under 18 will remain exempt), international students who are 18 years old and older, athletes and people with a work permit.

Limited exemptions will be available for workers in agriculture and food processing, marine crews, new permanent residents, people entering on compassionate grounds, refugees and some children under 18 years old, according to the government. Those exempt will still need to take a Covid-19 test and quarantine if they test positive.

“The Government of Canada’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to prioritize the health and safety of Canadians,” the release stated. “As vaccination levels, case counts and hospitalization rates evolve, the Government of Canada will continue to consider further targeted measures at the borders – and when to lift or adjust them – to keep Canadians safe.”

Seventy-two hours without needing a Covid-19 test is just long enough for Grant to see her three children this Christmas. Her homemade cinnamon rolls, a holiday tradition sorely missed last year, will be on the menu again.

“Hopefully we can get back to normal now, whatever that new normal is,” Grant said, pausing. “As long as it doesn’t include separating families.”


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