The failure of the federal government to fully open the Canadian border or even recognize that it is closed, would be comical if it wasn’t so serious.
Yet again, the government extended the border closure with Canada for another 30 days Monday, making it 18 months now of restrictions.
“Continued closure of the U.S. border to vaccinated Canadians is completely unnecessary and unexplained,” Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) said Monday afternoon. We couldn’t agree more.
We all understood when the border was closed to non-essential travel at the outbreak of COVID-19 in March of 2020 as positive cases enveloped Canada as well as our region.
We even understood when the restrictions continued month after month until vaccines became widely available in late 2020 and early 2021.
We figured there would be some movement on the border restrictions in late spring as the vaccines showed to be effective in lowering case numbers.
With the busy summer season of tourism approaching, an open border would have been most welcome on many fronts.
But it never came to pass despite desperate pleas from state, local and federal officials, and even U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, the majority leader from New York.
The delta variant has since raged on, causing COVID-19 cases numbers to once again skyrocket, but the big numbers do not mean what they used to mean.
At the beginning of the pandemic, positive cases were real bad news, especially for the elderly, and often meant serious illness, and even death.
But vaccines have drastically changed that. Now, largely only those who are not vaccinated are getting sick and dying.
Some of those who have been vaccinated are still getting COVID-19, but they fare much better than those who are not, and rarely wind up in the hospital with serious illness or die.
The development of vaccines alone should have been enough for officials in Washington, D.C. to sit down and start talking about a plan to re-open the border.
The Canadians figured it out and began to allow non-essential travel of U.S. residents to Canada on Aug. 9 as long as they are vaccinated.
But no such meetings have happened in Washington that anyone can tell, which doesn’t make sense, and it is a cause of tremendous frustration.
It seems the Biden administration is just clueless about the border, which is alarming.
Local, state and federal officials are outraged, and rightfully so. Their statements criticizing the lack of plans are no longer cordial, but rather sharp and pointed.
Said Higgins Monday, “Canada’s unilateral action to allow Americans to cross the border beginning in August demonstrated what we already knew: vaccines were the turning point that make reopening the border possible. This was substantial progress in our fight to reconnect with our Canadian neighbors, but we need action on the U.S. side. Canada opened its land crossings successfully and the United States should be acting today to do the same.”
To make matters even more frustrating, it is perfectly fine for Canadians to fly into the U.S., but they can’t drive in. That’s a head-scratcher — it would seem far safer to drive across the border in your own car than it would be to board an airplane packed with strangers in a crowded airport.
Our region, our nation and our partner Canada deserve better than this.