Jim Sneddon admits he cried with relief when he heard fully vaccinated Canadians will be able to cross into the U.S. by land starting Nov. 8.
COVID-19 border restrictions, imposed since March 2020, have prohibited the Sarnia man from taking the 10-minute drive across the Bluewater Bridge to see his wife who lives in Port Huron.
“I’m looking forward to being with my American family, for good times and bad, tending to our properties and being there when they need me,” he said.
In the 19 months since the border closed, Sneddon has spent thousands of dollars flying between Toronto and Detroit to see his wife. Unlike land and water travel, flying to the U.S. from Canada for non-essential reasons was never banned.
The Imperial Oil pensioner has flown four times and acknowledges he’s lucky to have the means to do it.
“I feel for people in my situation who just couldn’t afford to do this,” he said.
Another Sarnians celebrating is Andrea Lynch, who was separated from her U.S. boyfriend – and the father of their baby – by the border closing.
“Woohoo, this is exciting news,” said Lynch, a supply teacher with the Lambton Kent District School Board.
In August 2020, Lynch gave birth to the couple’s son and was greatly relieved to find a loophole in border protocols that allowed her boyfriend, Brandon Grey, to arrive shortly before.
But they struggled with months of separation and anxiety because of travel restrictions and quarantine rules.
“I think of all the families, all the relationships and the hardships the border closing caused,” said Lynch. “It’s a huge mental relief for all of us.
“I think if we can get back to going to sports games, that’s great, but reuniting families is what’s really important.”
While Canada opened its border to vaccinated Americans in August, the U.S. waited until last week to announce vaccinated Canadians would soon be allowed to travel for non-essential reasons, like visiting family and shopping.
U.S. officials say travellers vaccinated with any WHO-approved COVID-19 shot will be able to cross without a test. On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed it will consider people with mixed doses fully vaccinated.
For Sarnians hoping to resume day trips to Michigan for gas, shopping and restaurants, Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, provided details.
Though the U.S. will not require land travellers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, Canadians must get a PCR test within 72 hours of leaving for the U.S., and can use it to re-enter, even for multiple trips during that 72-hour period.
That will facilitate easy movement across the border for the vaccinated, Blair said.
The border opening is great news for anyone who wants to reconnect with U.S family and friends, says Allan Calvert, CEO of the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce.
But less so for local businesses trying to promote “shop local,” he said.
“You better do your homework about going back and forth across the border,” Calvert warned. “Right now we know it’s only for people with matching vaccinations.”
No one knows why the Canadian and U.S. governments didn’t open the border at the same time, Calvert added.
“But the same precautions we follow over here should be followed over there.”
Dr. Sudit Ranade, Lambton’s medical officer of health, urged residents who head stateside to adhere to the protocols they follow at home.
“The point is not to worry about (COVID-19) hotspots because they frequently change,” said Ranade.
Instead, get vaccinated, wear masks, keep your distance, and don’t stop to talk to someone without masks for an extended period, he said.
“Don’t overthink it. Just take the same precautions you take here.”