The U.S.-Canadian border closure to non-essential traffic, which is currently set to expire next week, could be extended through Thanksgiving due to the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters Canada reported Tuesday, Sept. 15.
Citing “well-placed,” but unnamed sources in Washington D.C. and Ottawa, Reuters reported that the border could remain closed through at least the end of November.
The story also said that Canadian officials showed little interest in relaxing some of the restrictions currently in place anytime soon in spite of suggestions to do so from their American counterparts.
The border between the two countries has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21 in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19 between the neighbors. The closure, initially set to last a month, has been since extended five times and is currently set to expire on Monday, Sept. 21.
But this time, authorities are looking to extend the closure by two full months, as one source told Reuters “this is probably going to have to extend through at least until American Thanksgiving (Nov. 26).”
Stories coming out of Canada suggesting many north of the border are in favor of keeping the border closed while the U.S. continues to struggle with getting new COVID-19 cases and related deaths under control.
Research Co. published results of a poll conducted Sept. 1 that found that 90% of 1,000 Canadians asked would like to see the border remained closed to non-essential travel.
Last week, CTV reported that a group of Canadian mayors from cities located near the border called for the federal government to continue prohibiting non-essential travel between the two countries.
In an unscientific Facebook poll with the story, CTV asked readers if they when they thought the border should reopen — next year, it should be open now or wait until there is a vaccine. The post has been commented on 2,200 times, shared 377 times and drew 13,233 votes as of Monday afternoon, Sept. 14, and found:
▪ 6.8% of people who responded (895) want the border open now.
▪ 34.2% of people who responded (4,522) want the border to remain closed until there is a vaccine.
▪ 58.1% of people who responded (7,686) want the border closed until next year.
Despite trade and commerce being allowed during the border closing, both countries’ economies rely heavily on one another, and that is definitely seen here in Whatcom County.
The Western Washington University Border Policy Research Institute has found that Canadians comprise approximately 75% of cross-border travelers to and from Whatcom County, depending on the exchange rate, according to information Director Laurie Trautman emailed to The Bellingham Herald. In 2018, that would have represented approximately 10.5 million southbound Canadian travelers through the Blaine, Lynden, Sumas and Point Roberts points of entry.
Those Canadians represent a large portion of consumers in Whatcom County — anywhere from 2% to 46% of the weekend customer base Whatcom County retailers see, Trautman reported, adding that the average is about 17%.
According to the British Columbia COVID-19 dashboard, the province has seen 7,279 total cases during the pandemic and 219 confirmed deaths as of Monday. It also shows that the number of daily cases has dramatically increased since mid-August and the total number of active cases in the province is 1,594.
More than half of the total cases (3,754) are in the Frasier Health Authority, which borders Whatcom County. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority accounts for 2,557 cases.
With a population of approximately 5.1 million, British Columbia is averaging 142.7 cases and 4.3 related deaths per 100,000 residents.
For comparison, the Washington State Department of Health reported 80,138 confirmed cases and 2,006 related deaths on Monday. With a population of approximately 7.5 million, the state is averaging 1,068.5 cases and 26.7 deaths per 100,000.