Businesses near the Coutts, Alta., border crossing are facing another month of uncertainty following an announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday to extend the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to non-essential travel by 30 days.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the land border has remained open for essential travel, including the transportation of goods and travel for work purposes, but the owner of the Double Tree Inn, a business based out of Coutts, said there’s no doubt the closure to non-essential travel has been hard on businesses in the area.
“We get say, 95 per cent of our business with the border being open,” Will Harty said. “I might have had about four rooms rented this last month.”
Despite the struggle to fill rooms at the inn, Harty said he wasn’t surprised to hear Trudeau has extended the closure, after watching the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States.
“It would probably just be worse, coming through the border and bringing it back up this way,” he said.
Following the May long weekend, active cases reported south of the border surpassed 1.5 million, with the death toll rising to more than 90,000.
As of Wednesday, Coutts had zero active cases of the novel coronavirus.
Coutts duty-free store and a local restaurant have closed their doors and have no plans to reopen until the border does, and while Harty said his business should survive, others haven’t been so fortunate.
“I’m okay because I’ve been here 20 years now and I can probably shoulder it, but if I was only in it five years, I would probably be shut right now too.”
Coutts Mayor Jim Willett said since gathering restrictions have been relaxed, Coutts citizens are more on board with keeping COVID-19 out. He added that his main concern for the community remains a perceived lack of testing being done on anyone crossing the border.
“What the government has given them as guidelines have been lax,” Willett said. “All they have is a questionnaire and personal observation, and they know what to look for, but it’s still easy to mask some symptoms.”
Harty said he agrees with the need for more testing — especially for truckers.
“A lot of times they need a fax or whatever, so they will come here to the motel to get faxes and that done,” he said.
The business owner, however, said he remains optimistic that with this latest border closure the community will remain strong and be able to reopen without fear.