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Canadian border opens for vaccinated Americans

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 9:02 AM EDT
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CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. (WCAX) - There was a steady stream of cars lined up at the northern border Monday, the first day that vaccinated Americans are allowed to cross into Canada. It comes after unions representing border workers reached a tentative agreement with the Canada Border Services Agency late Friday night, ending the strike that began last week.

Alexandra Gibbons and her three kids made their trek to the border from Chatham, New Jersey, on Monday to visit relatives after a long absence.

“It’s been almost two years since we’ve seen grandparents, great parents for the kids and today was the first day we could come, so that’s what we decided to do,” Gibbons said. While she has her vaccinations, her kids aren’t old enough. “Today is the first time they can come with a negative test and not have to quarantine for two weeks.”

They all tested negative and put all documents in the ArriveCAN app, saying it was all worth it to be together again. “You never know, with great grandparents, we wanted to get there,” Gibbons said.

Robin Caputo and her kids made the trip from Rockland County. They also have loved ones on the other side of the border. “As soon as we heard the border was opening, we planned it immediately,” she said. “It’s been two years. They live right outside Montreal.”

They are also fully vaccinated and tested negative for COVID within 72 hours, the requirement for all Americans who hope to travel into the country. All visitors are also subject to random PCR testing at the border as well.

Caputo says the five-hour drive was nothing if it means they can be in the same room with old friends once again. “We’re super excited,” she said.

Local pharmacies like Condo Pharmacy in Plattsburgh saw a boost in testing over the weekend with lines out the door Friday. The pharmacy only has so many tests in its inventory, so they are asking people to call ahead and make an appointment to get a test if they want one. The pharmacy’s Steve Moore says they did plan ahead and order more tests than usual but that once the tests are gone, they’re gone.

“You try to forecast your demand and we are very fortunate with prescription drugs we can usually have the medication the next day but testing is a little bit different,” he said. “Sometimes you need to get your allocations from the manufacture and that’s all you get. If you get that weekly, it’s what you get. So there could be some inventory challenges. we work with suppliers as best we can, we work with our colleagues as best we can but we’ve definitely had weeks where we had to say we are out until we can get our next shipment, unfortunately. “

Christopher Kirkey, director of Canadian Studies SUNY Plattsburgh, is a dual citizen and recently crossed into Canada for a funeral. He said while it will take more time to cross the border, he sees the benefits. “Are the steps reasonable? Are they responsible? I think they are,” he said. “It involves clearly more time in being able to facilitate your transit across the border, but it’s very science-driven and reasonable. Some people might find it to be more of a headache and in some respects it is, I won’t deny that, but also as I said earlier I think it is responsible.”

There is a fine for anyone that violates the country’s restrictions. Providing false documents could result in up to six months in prison and up to $750,000 in fines.

As of Monday, the U.S. border is still closed to nonessential travel and vaccinated Canadians. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-New York, is critical of the Biden administration for that decision, calling it a “flat-out dereliction of duty.” She is demanding President Biden change course saying, “Families, businesses, and communities along the northern border deserve better.”

The Biden administration says it’s working on a phased reopening plan.

Americans coming back into the U.S. won’t need a PRC test to re-enter.

Related Stories:

Tentative agreement reached after Canadian labor strike

Canadian strike causes border backups

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