WASHINGTON — As Canada eases COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinates more of its population, Rep. Elise Stefanik is hoping Canadian officials will start to work to reopen the international border the country shares with the U.S.
Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, sent a letter Wednesday to each Canadian provincial and territorial premier, requesting their assistance in reopening the international border and allowing more travelers to cross.
Stefanik pointed to the most recent change made to Canadian border regulations, that vaccinated Canadians who test negative for COVID-19 may re-enter the country without quarantine, as an indication that it is time to start drafting a reopening plan publicly. She asked that the Canadian premiers support a similar set of rules for vaccinated Americans seeking to enter Canada.
Stefanik said in her letters that while border crossing restrictions were necessary during the start of the pandemic, the current situation in both the U.S. and Canada should allow for some easing of crossing restrictions, which are currently limited to essential business, trade and some family visitation.
“As conditions have significantly improved in both countries and an increasing number of residents have been vaccinated, the lack of meaningful progress towards reopening has been devastating to communities on both sides of our border,” Stefanik wrote.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s weekly report shows that as of July 5, 70% of the country’s total population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 27.15% are considered fully vaccinated. About 40% of Canadians are partially vaccinated, meaning they have received their last dose within the last two weeks.
Since March 2020, the U.S.-Canada border has been closed to most travelers, and the closure has been extended on a month-to-month basis since then.
“The continual month-long extensions without clear signs of coordination or progress are straining the U.S.-Canada partnership,” Stefanik wrote.
In early June, Stefanik wrote a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking him to move to unilaterally reopen the border — allowing certain Canadians into the U.S. if they own homes here, wish to travel or are family of a U.S. resident — by June 21, when the extension was slated to end. The Biden administration did not do that, and an announcement that the border would remain closed another month soon followed.
Other U.S. officials have taken up that position as well, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer who on Tuesday in Sackets Harbor called for the U.S. to unilaterally reopen the border, as Stefanik previously called for, by July 21, when the current border closure extension is set to expire.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his country’s first step in reopening the border — allowing vaccinated Canadians to return without a quarantine period — and said a plan for a phased reopening would be unveiled in a few weeks time.