With COVID-19 cases rising and the omicron variant looming, Canada will keep the northern border open but is advising people to avoid non-essential travel.

Local businesses in the North Country have already been impacted by lack of border traffic during the pandemic and any talk of restricting travel is concerning.

Canadians are a major contributor to the region’s tourism industry as they dock boats in marinas around Lake Champlain and travel to engage in recreational activities like hiking in the Adirondacks. Lakeside Coffee in Rouses Point, New York, is often packed with people in the summertime, the majority of whom are Canadians.

“It’s very important and vital to the economics of the local region to go ahead and have Canadians come from Canada and be allowed to pass through the border freely,” said Lake Coffee owner Norman Lague. “We do want to get back to normal at some point. We understand there is a pandemic but we think it can be done in a safe manner.”

Lawmakers in the North Country don’t want to see the border shut down again. In a statement, Rep. Elise Stefanik said “imposing more requirements on cross-border travel would only make our nation’s current supply chain worse.”

State Sen. Dan Stec said keeping the northern border open “is important for our economy and to many families on both sides of the border.”

Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, said “we are pleased that for the time being at least, they have decided to advise Canadians not to travel internationally but are not changing current requirements at the land border.

Canadians can visit the US for up to 72 hours without a test, and Americans can still visit Canada with use of the ArriveCan app and a PCR test.