When it comes to Detroit’s culture scene, Colin MacDonald has a lot of catching up to do.
“We’ll probably book ourselves a hotel … and just spend a weekend of eating and catching up on new restaurants, new galleries, all the stuff that’s happening over there that I’m hearing about from colleagues, but not actually being able to sort of see,” he told Global News.
“We really miss that connection we have with all the people of Detroit.”
A moment 20 months in the making, the U.S. will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico in early November to travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Under the new rules, White House officials said non-essential travellers will be asked about their vaccination status at crossings, and only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed through. Proof of vaccination will be required if selected for random screening.
No COVID-19 testing will be required to enter the U.S. by land or sea, provided visitors meet vaccination requirements, officials said. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test is still required to board a flight to the U.S.
For Shell Wrubel, co-owner of Chef Shell’s Restaurant and Catering in Port Huron, Mich., the border reopening to customers in nearby Sarnia, Ont., will feel like “a family reunion.”
“Look at where we’re geographically placed: land-wise, half of it is Michigan and the other half is Canada, so you’ve taken away the ability for half of our customer base to come and see us,” she said.
“We’re very excited to be able to have the commerce, the relationships re-established and welcoming our Canadian friends with open arms.”
Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to cross into Canada by land for vacation since August, so long as they’ve been fully inoculated for two weeks with a Health Canada approved vaccine. Travellers are also required to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.
But for months, the loosened rules haven’t been reciprocated, which has frustrated border town mayors.
Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., told Global News that Canada’s vaccination rate — 88 per cent of the eligible population partially vaccinated and 82 per cent fully inoculated — shows “we’re not a risk to anybody.”
“Border towns are often one big city divided by a border,” he said.
“We’re thrilled that we’ll be able to once again drive into the U.S. … something we’ve always done.”
Drew Dilkens, mayor of Windsor, Ont., said that having land borders open will allow residents to share life moments with their loved ones again.
“In 20 months of closure, all of those life events have played out … everyone can appreciate that opening the border, reuniting families, connecting families back together and getting our economies humming again are critically important,” he said.
Like the loosening of border rules, Canada and the U.S. haven’t totally seen eye-to-eye on certain vaccines.
While Moderna and Pfizer are approved in both countries, AstraZeneca has not been given the green light for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — a vaccine that contributed to a good portion of Canada’s uptake.
In recent days, the U.S. announced that travellers who received any vaccines approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the World Health Organization, will be allowed to enter the country.
This means Canadians who received AstraZeneca’s vaccine — which is approved by the WHO — will be welcomed.
However, whether the U.S. will recognize a mixed-dose schedule — two different COVID-19 vaccines — is still being worked out, according to White House officials.
While more details will likely arrive in the coming days and weeks, Dilkens feels the U.S. should allow mixed vaccinated Canadians into the country.
“Americans should accept that.”
Diodati also wants testing requirements for the vaccinated to be revisited.
“Are we going to force people to spend several hundreds or thousands of dollars every time they want to come back to Canada with their family?” he said.
“That’s the question that we’d like to know and we’re waiting for some answers.”
'Took for granted'
The deadline for the U.S. to reopen its land border is Oct. 21, and White House officials have said it will be extended to the early November reopening date. That date has yet to be confirmed.
In the meantime, MacDonald is looking forward to regularly crossing the border into Detroit once again.
“It’s something that we took for granted for a long time as being really just a second home, second nature crossing the border every day, and now to have it shut down completely cuts me off from family,” he said.
“It’s really giving us that opportunity to connect again, both with family, friends and with the city.”
— With files from Sean Boynton.