Coutts mayor supports travel restriction extension at Canada-US border

Click to play video 'Coutts mayor says travel restriction extension at Canada-U.S border the right move' Coutts mayor says travel restriction extension at Canada-U.S border the right move
The Mayor of Coutts is calling the most recent decision to keep the Canada-U.S land border closed to non-essential travel good news. The village is located right next to one of the main ports of entry into Canada. Quinn Campbell has the details.

The traffic in and out of the country at the Coutts border crossing remains low as restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border have been extended another 30 days due to COVID-19.

Will Harty, who owns the Double Tree Inn, said he thinks it’s the right move.

“Better to take care of it now so it doesn’t get worse and worse. It’s a good way of keeping the numbers down a little bit I’d say.”

Read more: Canada, U.S. agree to extend non-essential travel ban to Sept. 21

Non-essential travel won’t be permitted; travellers deemed essential or those passing through on their way to Alaska will be allowed.

Read more: Crackdown on ‘Alaska-loophole’ welcomed by Alberta border community

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Coutts Mayor Jim Willett said he worries lifting restrictions too soon between the countries could put his residents at risk.

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“My biggest fear is that we would have two or three people here in town come down with it at the same time, and they don’t go many places but, it’s a small community, 100 households.

“It wouldn’t take much to decimate our population and put them all in the hospital.”

The halt in visitors is hitting the local economy hard. Willett said some businesses forced to close due to the pandemic won’t be reopening.

“The saloon here, the bar closed when COVID-19 came and he has no plans to ever reopen, it’s for sale,” Willett said, adding that Smugglers, the saloon, was listed for sale before the pandemic forced its closure, but it was still operating.

Click to play video 'Coutts, Alta., officials react to border crackdown on American travellers' Coutts, Alta., officials react to border crackdown on American travellers
Coutts, Alta., officials react to border crackdown on American travellers

Other businesses in town are doing what they can to serve the local community, even workers who’ve been sent to the area to help impose the new restrictions like Alberta Health Services employees and contractors.

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“It’s nice to see some business for a change. We went so dry when this COVID hit this spring,” added Harty.

Read more: Village of Coutts expected to feel impact of new Canada-U.S. border restrictions due to COVID-19

The mayor said the restrictions make for a difficult balance of community needs. He said he knows travellers are needed to help the businesses thrive.

“I tread that fine wire of my businesses need business but we want to make sure that everybody stays safe.”

Read more: Coutts border crossing experiences long wait times as COVID-19 travel restrictions set in

The mutual ban on non-essential cross-border travel has been in place since mid-March. It will remain until at least Sept. 21.