U.S. border opening to vaccinated Canadians

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Oct. 13—The U.S. border is reopening to vaccinated Canadians next month.

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the announcement Tuesday night.

Schumer said he had direct confirmation from Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas that the U.S. plans to reopen the U.S.-Canadian border to nonessential vaccinated travelers by early November.

Changes to allow fully vaccinated Canadians into the United States through land ports of entry will begin in November. Proof of vaccination will be required. Further details will be announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in coordination with U.S. health agencies.

"Kudos to President Biden for doing the right thing and increasing cross border travel between Canada and the U.S." Schumer said in a release. "The high vaccination rates on each side of the border have opened the door of safe cross-border travel and will now safely increase the rebirth of the economic energy of upstate NY."

Just last week, Higgins, during a press conference in the Falls, called for the Biden administration to open the border and provide pandemic relief to businesses on both sides, or provide a clear explanation why the shutdown should continue.

Currently 72% of Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19, along with 56% of Americans. While Higgins said he believes still more Americans need to be vaccinated, at the current levels, he argued it's "ridiculous for the border to remain closed.

Higgins had a different tone on Tuesday.

"At long last, there is action by the United States to open the doors and welcome back our Canadian neighbors," Higgins said in a release. "For months now we've heard from businesses that are suffering and families distraught over the separation imposed by the continued border shutdown. The sigh of relief coming from Northern Border communities following this announcement is so loud it can practically be heard on either end of the Peace Bridge."

The border between the United States and Canada first closed to non-essential travel due to the pandemic in March of 2020. After 17 months of restrictions, Canada reopened its border to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9. However, the U.S. continued its order restricting all Canadians, regardless of vaccination status, from crossing through land ports of entry through Oct. 21.

The U.S. Travel Association has reported that the U.S. economy is losing $439 million a month as a result of the northern border shutdown. That impact has been particularly severe in border communities and tourist destinations like Niagara Falls.

Sales tax revenue collected from local hotels, shops and restaurants decreased by 26% in 2020 compared to 2019. Despite a gradual return to normal business in 2021, and an increase in domestic travelers, Niagara Falls bed tax revenues in 2021, year to date, are down 11% when compared to 2019 and parking revenue, collected from the downtown tourist district, is down 23%.

U.S. Bureau of Transportation statistics show that before the pandemic, in 2019, more than 10.5 million people crossed into the United States in passenger vehicles through Buffalo-Niagara Falls border crossings. The current border restrictions resulted in a drop of close to 9 million travelers, down to just 1.7 million individuals, crossing by passenger vehicle into the Buffalo-Niagara region in 2020.

The United States and Canada share 5,525 miles of border, the longest land boundary between two countries in the world. When fully operational, more than 400,000 people and over $1.6 billion in goods cross the Northern Border daily through over 120 ports of entry.

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