Political and business leaders are praising plans by the Biden administration to begin allowing people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the United States across the land border with Canada.
The Department of Homeland Security announced late Tuesday that both the Canadian and Mexican borders would reopen early next month. Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday called the move “a significant step forward on the path from pandemic to endemic management of COVID-19.”
The decision provided some long-awaited relief for businesses, communities and elected officials that had been pushing President Biden for the reopening.
“U.S. to Reopen Land Borders’ was a great headline to wake up to this morning,” said Jay Peak Resorts Communications Director JJ Toland.
About 50 percent of Jay Peak’s annual winter visitors hail from Canada. The pandemic-related travel restrictions made for a dismal 2020 on the slopes, but the return of nonessential travel is now poised to bring back essential customers.
“Not having that last year was a real gut punch to our revenue,” Toland said. “It’s shifted the lens of how we’re looking at this season now pretty significantly.”
Vermont ski resorts aren’t the only ones celebrating. Some of the loudest calls for action on the border closure rang from New York’s North Country. Leadership at the North Country Chamber of Commerce made it clear they were fed up. The impact on Clinton County in particular made it difficult to ignore the lack of Canadian visitors.
“They take advantage of a lot of our attractions, our marinas, our campgrounds,” said Kristy Kennedy, VP of Marketing and Business Development for the chamber. “We’ve missed two summers of that. With this announcement, the nice thing is holiday season we do get a really good lodging and retail spike typically, so we’re hoping to see that again this year.”
State Senator Dan Stec (R-NY45) has been urging the Biden Administration to reopen the border by Canada’s Thanksgiving Day on October 11, which typically draws many visitors.
“Better late then never, but the Canadians managed to figure this out months ago and none of us have heard any negative experiences the Canadians had letting vaccinated Americans into Canada,” Stec said.
For Stec, that delay remains a concern.
“Why now?” he said. “The question a few months ago was ‘what metric do we need to hit for us to reopen the border?’ Now we’re getting word that the border is going to reopen, and I welcome that news, but what changed?”
Toland also had some lingering concerns when it comes to testing protocol for Canadians upon their return north of the border.
“There’s no indications right now that the U.S. is going to require testing, but as of now, the Canadians require testing to leave,” Toland said. “Are they going to require testing to come back? So, what that process looks like is going to inform what we expect from the Canadian traveler, but we are hopeful it’s going to look a lot better than last season.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.