Could we be taking daytrips to drink afternoon tea in Victoria or explore Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., this summer? It’s possible that we could see the Canadian border reopening in the not-too-distant future.
Governor Jay Inslee said during a news conference on Thursday that he wanted to look into getting travel across the border opened back up soon.
“I would like to see progress in the near future on the border,” Inslee said. “I don’t know exactly what that would entail.”
Since March 2020, the entire U.S./Canadian border has been open to essential traffic only, a measure meant to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The current border closure is set to expire May 21, but each time the closure has expired over the past 14 months, it has been extended.
Now, however, Washington is making strides with vaccines. At the latest Washington State Department of Health briefing this past Wednesday, health leaders said that more than 40% of those who are eligible have been fully vaccinated.
“Given the progress we’re making, the increased vaccination, I would hope that we can make progress on [the border] in the upcoming months,” Inslee said.
Washington’s congressional delegation also asked President Biden to prioritize restarting travel between B.C. and Washington earlier this year, noting that reopening the border would likely boost the state’s small businesses with some much-needed tourist dollars. Seattle and communities all over the state have felt the loss of revenue from Canadian day- and weekend-trippers, but it has been especially devastating for Washington towns near the border. The delegation’s letter observed that Canadian visitors spent $138 million at Whatcom County businesses in 2018 — but the number of crossings in 2020 was down to just 2% of their previous rate.
The 14-month closure has even separated Canadian-American couples and family members. In a scene that could be out of a wartime romance, some have been able to meet up for picnics and strolls at Peace Arch Park, a no-man’s-land that straddles British Columbia and Washington and can be visited without passing through border controls.
Meanwhile, State Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah has met virtually with B.C.’s Ministry of Health and will be doing so regularly — but Shah says, so far, they’ve just been sharing strategies for fighting the virus.