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U.S. border town welcomes back fully vaccinated B.C. visitors, but travel hurdles remain

·2 min read
A view of the Oroville-Osoyoos border crossing through a chain-link fence on the Canadian side. (Curtis Allen - image credit)
A view of the Oroville-Osoyoos border crossing through a chain-link fence on the Canadian side. (Curtis Allen - image credit)

Businesses in northern Washington state are welcoming back Canadian customers once the United States reopens its land borders, but a B.C. mayor says travellers may face hurdles.

The U.S. is allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada to enter the United States by air, land and ferry for non-essential travel starting Nov. 8.

Those entering the U.S. at a land border will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent. Land travellers do not need to show a negative COVID-19 test, a requirement for air travellers.

Karen Frisbie, Chamber of Commerce president in Oroville, Wash. — a small town of about 2,000 residents bordering Osoyoos in B.C.'s South Okanagan — says her community has been quiet without Canadians travelling south to shop during the pandemic.

"We definitely miss our Canadian neighbours and look forward to having them back," Frisbie said Friday to host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.

Many border towns in Washington state struggled due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing Canadians from travelling across the border. The city of Blaine, for instance, said last August their finances were hit hard after several months without Canadian visitors.

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff says she can feel the happiness of Canadians who know they'll be able to visit Oroville.

"A lot of the people in Osoyoos love to go to Oroville — they have their special places [and] restaurants [in Oroville], and they love to go down there for American milk and cheese and beer, and gas sometimes," McKortoff said on Daybreak South.

But the mayor also strikes a cautious note.

"You still need a PCR test to come back to Canada," she said, referring to a type of molecular testing. Molecular COVID-19 tests involve methods such a nose swab, or providing a saliva sample.

"You're not going to go down there for a day, and [you] have to worry about having a PCR test in order to get back through the border."

Canada still requires arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their entry to Canada, regardless of their point of entry — but labs could take more than 72 hours to issue a test result.

"We need to wait until all of those things have been solved a little bit better before people will even take the chance to go across," McKortoff said.

LISTEN | Karen Frisbie and Sue McKortoff share their hopes and concerns about U.S. border reopening to Canadians:

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