Cross-border couple stymied by coronavirus closure

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NORTH TROY, Vt. (WCAX) The coronavirus is putting cross-border relationships on hold. The U.S. and Canada agreed to close the border until at least late June but that is tearing some families apart. Our Dom Amato spoke with one couple hoping changes are made so the lockdown on their love can be lifted.

"He lives in North Troy, which is 3 miles from my house, literally," Lydia Pouliot said.

Pouliot met her fiance, Jon Higgins, while volunteering at their respective fire departments. She lives in Mansonville, Quebec. He resides in North Troy, Vermont. They've been together since last fall but their relationship came to a screeching halt March 21 when the U.S.-Canada border shut down.

"I've never seen it before," Higgins said. "There's been a lot of other things that have happened and they've never closed."

The closure was originally for 30 days. It has been extended three times.

Reporter Dom Amato: Did you kind of have a feeling that they may close the border, or what was that like?
Lydia Pouliot: No, because we had been going through, at the very least, every other day, both of us, and often every day.

"It's been tough," Higgins said. "It's probably one of the toughest things when you live so close to somebody but you can't literally go to the next town over."

Even though they're only about a 10-minute drive apart, their relationship is now through texts, phone calls and Facetime. But the broadband in Mansonville isn't great.

"It's hard to have a relationship over the phone," Higgins said.

Not only is it impacting their relationship, but it's also taxing on their mental health. Both say it's a challenge for their kids, too. Higgins has two children from a previous relationship and he was in the process of adopting Pouliot's daughter before the coronavirus split them all up.

"It's hard for them to understand why they can't go see them," Higgins said.

"She misses him," Pouliot said. "She's having trouble sleeping, she knows, she doesn't understand. She's three."

They wish both countries would do more to help families.

"I'm hoping to get sort of the same consideration they're giving essential workers, who are coming up and going down," Pouliot said. "This can't happen again, it's terrible. It's tearing my family apart."

"We can't cross an international border that's so close, but you look around and there's people from New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire," Higgins said. "They've traveled a lot farther than most people would travel to go across the border for relationships in these border towns."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is speaking with leaders across Canada about allowing families to reunite with loved ones across the border with strict restrictions, but no decision has been made.