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Trudeau announces possible border reopening, but residents of border towns aren’t hopeful

UPDATED: Sat., July 17, 2021

Burgandy Jacobson, 25, sweeps the porch of her family’s store during a long wait between customers last Tuesday at Jake's Landing near the Porthill Point of Entry near Porthill, Idaho. The Jacobsons bought several buildings on the U.S.-Canada border just before the COVID-19 pandemic began and have been struggling to stay afloat since.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Burgandy Jacobson, 25, sweeps the porch of her family’s store during a long wait between customers last Tuesday at Jake's Landing near the Porthill Point of Entry near Porthill, Idaho. The Jacobsons bought several buildings on the U.S.-Canada border just before the COVID-19 pandemic began and have been struggling to stay afloat since. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Restrictions for Americans traveling to Canada may loosen by mid-August.

But some residents of border towns remain skeptical of the timeline announced Thursday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

After 16 months of closure, Trudeau said Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans for nonessential travel and could allow fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September – if Canada’s current vaccine rate holds.

The announcement comes less than a week before the government normally re-evaluates the closure.

Lars Jacobson, owner of Jake’s Landing in Porthill, Idaho, remains doubtful. “It’s just not believable anymore. We have little to no hope.”

Jake’s Landing – a convenience store, gas station and shipping depot – sits right at the edge of the U.S.-Canadian border north of Bonners Ferry. Before the pandemic, their store would be packed with Canadians coming across the border for cheap gas, food and package pickups. Since the closure, they’ve lost 90% of their business.

Trudeau originally said the border would not reopen until Canada’s vaccine rate improved, having had large disparities between the number of people with one dose and those fully vaccinated. Currently, nearly 80% of those eligible in Canada have received one dose while almost 50% are fully vaccinated.

Canada began easing restrictions earlier this month by allowing fully vaccinated Canadians or permanent legal residents to return to Canada without quarantine. Those traveling still had to receive a negative COVID-19 test before crossing the border and another when they got back.

Jacobson said he has not seen any change in his business despite loosened restrictions for Canadians.

“I don’t know how much longer we can do this,” he said.

Brian Calder, Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce president, said he has heard going between the two countries, even as a fully vaccinated Canadian, is a “bureaucratic nightmare.”

Point Roberts, Washington, is a U.S. exclave surrounded on three sides by water and one side by the Canadian border. The only way to travel there is by boat, plane or crossing the border twice.

Most of the town’s residents have dual citizenship, and most of their economy relies on Canadians coming there for the summer.

He called Trudeau’s announcement on Thursday “all politics.” He said he thinks the announcement will just “soften the blow” when Trudeau extends the closure another month into August.

Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters Friday he was happy that there is a good possibility of reopening the border in mid-August, but he wants to make sure it happens.

“We understand it’s not an assurance at the moment,” he said.

Inslee said he would be signing a letter on Friday to push for some assurance that the border will reopen soon, especially as Washington and British Columbia have a similar vaccination rate.

“We are ready to reopen this border,” he said.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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