Washington town wants COVID-19 test exemption for Canadian visitors

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COVID-19 testing requirements for Canadians driving home from the United States could only prolong difficulties for the small coastal town of Point Roberts, Wash., community leaders say.

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Point Roberts is cut off from the water from the rest of the state, requiring residents to drive through Metro Vancouver to reach the Washington state mainland.

Brian Calder, president of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce, said that prior to COVID-19, the community saw about 1.5 million visitors each year, but half of them often went to the city to get cheap gas, buy groceries or Used to spend an hour or less buying. Checking in on their cabins or boats.

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When the US border reopens for vaccinated Canadians, no testing will be needed to go south, but a negative COVID-19 test is needed to return to Canada and Calder said that the site of Point Roberts For this is a problem.

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Point Roberts only offers testing on Wednesdays and Sundays, which he said would limit visitors to Canada.

He said he expected the Canadian government to lift the testing regulation for the city.

“We are a completely unique place in North America and we deserve specific treatment,” he said, citing an 87 percent vaccination rate in the community. “We have been very proactive as a community. The last thing we want is a carrier of COVID, but we are not being listened to.”

The land and sea borders between the US and Canada have been closed to non-essential travel since March 21, 2020, and the closure order was extended every 30 days until October 12, when the White House confirmed That it will officially reopen the border. Canadian next month.

US citizens and permanent residents who have been fully vaccinated have been allowed to enter Canada starting August 9.

Calder said the shutdown has been “economically disastrous” for the city, where 90 percent of the economy was decimated due to pandemic travel restrictions.

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“It’s up to Canada, not neighboring communities in the United States, so when you close that border, we’re toast.”

Ali Heaton, owner of Point Roberts International Marketplace, the community’s only grocery store, said she was excited to hear the news of the range, but remains “hopeful with preservation”.

“They’ve raised our hopes before, so I hope it’s real this time because we just need our customers,” Heaton said.

In July, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee visited this point and provided Heaton $100,000 in state funding to help conduct his business.

“The loss of revenue in the last 19 months is over $10 million, so the funding helped, but that only scratches the surface,” she said. “We’ve been really struggling, especially since August 9, when they let our (US) customers go without allowing any Canadians to come back.”

Calder said he estimates it will take two to three years for the local economy to recover if borders remain open and the testing requirement is removed, but citizens are wary of a potential reopening.

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“Confidence in our frontier capability has been dashed and it will undermine whatever it will do now to bring people back and rebuild the economy,” he said. “People come here for peace, quiet and entertainment. They don’t want apprehension and fear, so that’s my biggest concern now.”

While the US administration has said the land border will reopen in early November, an exact date has not been released.

This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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