The closure of the U.S.-Canada border to non-essential travel due to COVID-19 will be extended once again, according to a report by CTV News.
The closure was set to expire Friday, May 21, but has been extended another month and is now set to last until June 21, according to CTV.
It would mark the 14th such extension, since the two countries originally agreed to close the border March 21, 2020, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Canadian Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had not yet tweeted about the extension as of Tuesday afternoon, as they have with previous extensions of the border closure.
“Minister Blair is in regular contact with his American counterparts about issues relating to our shared border,” James Cudmore, the director of communications for the minister of public safety, in a statement to CTVNews.ca when asked about the status of the situation on. “Until the conditions on both sides of the border change very substantively, the measures at our borders will remain intact.”
The news comes despite reports last week that Canadian officials were beginning to talk about what it would take to reopen the border.
According to a Bloomberg story Friday, May 14, the Canadian government had internal discussions about reopening the border with the U.S., even though Canada remains well behind American vaccination efforts. Citing three unnamed sources, the story said Canadian senior officials began to talk about options of how to open the border.
“In the end, it’s a political decision, and at what point does the Canadian side — and it’s the Canadian side at this point that’s the slowpoke — decide that they’re ready to receive and what categories of people that they’ll open up to,” Michael Kergin, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., told Bloomberg. “A staged reopening would be the logical approach.”
One item Canadian officials appear to be considering, according to Bloomberg, was a two-track system for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers, possibly including quarantine for the those who have not yet been vaccinated.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, May 11, seemed guardedly optimistic for the future, when he told Canadian media that “there is hope” for a “slightly better summer,” according to a story from Travel Pulse Canada.
The continued sticking point? Vaccination.
Trudeau said he’d like to see travel restrictions between the two countries continue until at least 75% of Canadians have initiated vaccination, the story said. He added that he would like to see improved community transmission rates.
According to CTV’s vaccination tracker, Canada has administered more than 19 million vaccination doses, and 46.25% of the country’s residents have received at least one dose. But only 1.4 million Canadian residents have received a second dose, meaning approximately 3.77% of the country is fully vaccinated — ranking 91st among nations.
For comparison, the tracker lists the U.S. as having administered 274 million doses, meaning 47.19% of its population has initiated vaccination and 37.03% of residents are fully vaccinated — 13th among nations.
Sharing vaccine across border
The Canadian Public Health Agency confirmed to the CTV in another story Tuesday that Canadian residents will now be allowed to head to the United States for a COVID-19 vaccine without having to quarantine when they return.
To be eligible for the exemption from quarantine, Canadians would need a note from a licensed healthcare provider in Canada that the vaccination was medically necessary as well as written proof from a licensed U.S. vaccine provider.
However, CTV also reported that being allowed to cross the border for a vaccination was not a free pass to go shopping or for other activities before returning to Canada.
The move could possibly make Whatcom County Fire District 5 Chief Christopher Carleton’s efforts to start a cross-border vaccination effort in Point Roberts even more likely.
The chief last week sent a second round of letters to lawmakers on both sides of the border, urging them to consider a proposal of using Point Roberts’ unique position on the tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula to use a surplus of doses on the American side of the border to help Canadian vaccination efforts.
“It should not matter to any of us where you come from, what nationality you are or where you get vaccinated,” Carleton wrote in the latest batch of letters. “This is not a partisan issue; it is a life issue. Every person who is vaccinated makes their community safer; every effort to make communities safer makes our shared world safer.”
Carleton cited examples of several other similar efforts already in place along different portions of the border.
COVID numbers update
As of Tuesday, the United States continues to have the highest number of COVID cases in the world with more than 32.9 million confirmed cases and 587,000 related deaths, according to the John Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard. Canada, meanwhile, was 22nd overall with more than 1.3 million cases and 24,000 related deaths.
The U.S. is the third-most populated country in the world with more than 331 million residents, according to worldometers.info, while Canada is No. 39 with more than 37 million residents.
According to the British Columbia COVID-19 dashboard on Monday, May 17, the province has seen 139,664 total cases during the pandemic and 1,648 confirmed deaths — an increase of 19,624 cases and 110 deaths since the last border extension was announced April 20. With a population of approximately 5.1 million, British Columbia has seen an infection rate of 384.8 cases and 2.2 deaths per 100,000 residents since April 20.
The Washington State Department of Health, meanwhile, reported 390,630 confirmed cases and 5,640 related deaths on Monday — an increase of 30,820 cases and 246 deaths since April 19. With a population of approximately 7.5 million, the state has averaged 410.9 cases and 3.3 deaths per 100,000 residents since April 19.
Washington state reports administering 6,337,924 vaccine doses, or approximately 0.85 doses per resident, while British Columbia reports administering 2,528,398 doses, or approximately 0.50 per resident.
Washington state reports that 37.54% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. Meanwhile CTV’s vaccination tracker reports that 130,023 second doses have been administered in British Columbia, which represents approximately 2.5% of the province’s population.