North Dakota ready to welcome back Canadian neighbours when border opens

Click to play video: 'North Dakota ready for Manitoba tourists to return' North Dakota ready for Manitoba tourists to return
Business owners in North Dakota say things are better than they were a year ago - but they are eager for Manitobans to return to do some cross-border shopping – Jul 23, 2021

As Canada gears up to welcome back fully vaccinated Americans, Washington is holding off on returning the favour, much to the chagrin of North Dakota businesses.

Canadians will not be allowed to cross the land border into the United States for at least another 30 days, after the U.S. government said Wednesday it will extend the closure for non-essential travelers from Canada and Mexico through Aug. 21.

Read more: U.S. border restrictions for Canada, Mexico renewed until Aug. 21

Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Businesses Bureau, said they’re disappointed with the decision, adding they were hoping for an Aug. 1 opening.

“We would have anticipated a lot of traffic for back-to-school shopping,” Johnson said.

The CEO noted businesses are faring well even without Manitoba shoppers, adding they were in more trouble a year ago than they are now in terms of customers.

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“I don’t think anyone’s desperate anymore, but man we sure miss them.”

Click to play video: 'U.S. extends border closure' U.S. extends border closure
U.S. extends border closure – Jul 22, 2021

Dr. Josh Ranum from West River Health services in Hettinger, N.D., said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is erring on the side of caution.

Despite that, Ranum thinks allowing fully vaccinated Canadians would be just fine.

“I think it’s a low risk, high yield step to take right now,” Ranum said.

Read more: Canada will allow fully vaccinated American leisure travellers as of Aug. 9

The North Dakota Department of Commerce estimates the state has lost more than 1 million Canadian visitors over the course of the pandemic.

Ranum said when the U.S. does decide to open land borders to non-essential travelers, they’ll need to be fully vaccinated just like Canada requires for American travelers.

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“It maintains the safety of North Dakotans,” the doctor said.

The number of vaccinated North Dakotans is a stark difference compared to Manitoba.

Though Manitoba boasts a larger population, less than 50 per cent of eligible North Dakotans have gotten a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while nearly 80 per cent of eligible Manitobans have done so.

Almost every North Dakotan with a first shot has received a second, while 63 per cent of eligible Manitobans are fully vaccinated.

Ranum, however, isn’t concerned about the risk of Manitobans travelling south of the border.

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