‘Huge sigh of relief’: North Country families celebrate news of border reopening

New York

Jordon Leblanc lives in Cadyville, New York, a short drive from the Canadian border. But for more than a year and a half, LeBlanc could not see his siblings, parents and elderly grandparents in New Brunswick.

“It has been tremendously hard,” said Leblanc, who is an ambassador with the North Country Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve had to postpone travel plans, gatherings have been on hold, and I know the whole region has just felt tension of something is lacking.”

On Wednesday, LeBlanc and other North Country families celebrated the news that vaccinated travelers from Canada will be able to cross into the United States, starting in November. The travel ban has had enormous social and cultural impact, preventing family gatherings when relatives live on different sides of the border. Community events have stalled even as cities away from U.S. borders have inched toward normalcy.

“For hundreds if not thousands of people along the border this is a huge sigh of relief, and I am one of those people,” said Leblanc.

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been allowed into Canada since August, provided they have waited at least two weeks since getting their second vaccine dose and can show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Sylvie Nelson of Saranac Lake said her Canadian citizenship allowed her entry into Canada during the pandemic, but she couldn’t go with her husband, who is American.

“He had to drive my son to the border,” Nelson said. “My little 13-year-old crossed by foot. I could see my husband on the other side, we would wave at each other and that’s as close as we got. It was eerie.”

Mary Curry of Chazy Lake said it was “devastating” not to see their young grandson in Montreal, a trip they took every weekend until the border shutdown in March 2020.

“We missed a lot of special things. We missed a lot of the milestones of our only grandchild and just getting to connect with him and bond with him was really hard,” she said.

Travelers entering the U.S. by vehicle, rail and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection. At officers’ discretion, travelers will have their proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.

Unlike air travel, for which proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the U.S., no testing will be required to enter the U.S. by land or sea, provided the travelers meet the vaccination requirement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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