New Brunswick border communities ready to welcome U.S. visitors
Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens can enter Canada on Aug. 9
When George Guimond looks out the windows of his home in Forest City, N.B., he sees the state of Maine across the St. Croix River.
It's only about 100 metres away — but his neighbours down the road remain impossible to visit right now.
"It's like you're boxed in on one side of the room, there's a wall there and you can't go any further," he said.
Friends and family were split apart when the U.S.-Canada border shutdown to non-essential travel during the pandemic. Now, after nearly a year-and-a-half, the tiny community is preparing to welcome some of its American neighbours back when restrictions ease next month.
Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be permitted to enter Canada without isolating beginning on Aug. 9. They won't need a negative COVID-19 post-arrival test unless they have been randomly selected, but all travellers will still need a pre-entry test.
The reopening of the border to American visitors next month is welcome news to many New Brunswick communities, preparing for a flow of tourists and family.
Guimond said he's seen a few of his neighbours from Forest City, Maine who have dual citizenship, after a change exempting fully-vaccinated Canadian citizens from self-isolation.
"We have several people who have homes or cottages on this side of the border and haven't been able to come visit their places for a year and a half. Some of them are anxious to come," he said.
"It'll be good to have them be able to come back."
While Guimond's American neighbours will be able to visit him, under current rules he won't be allowed to visit them in Maine. The U.S. border is expected to remain closed to Canadians in August.
On the other side of the river in Maine, Jane Johnson said she is fully vaccinated but plans to avoid crossing the border for now.
"Nobody wants to get caught in some sort of a bind where you can't go back or forth," she said.
Unvaccinated or undervaccinated travellers will still need to self-isolate for 14 days. And even if they're exempt, fully vaccinated travellers need a quarantine plan in case border officials determine they don't meet the requirements.
Johnson used Forest City, N.B. as a 10-minute shortcut to travel to Houlton, Maine and said with enhanced screening measures — including a possible molecular test — it's not worth it.
"I think this is being setup for those people who want to go over and stay for a little while, or who have family and want to make that kind of a commitment," she said.
'Very good news'
Residents of Woodstock are preparing for people from Houlton, Maine to start to visit restaurants and shops starting Aug. 9.
Mayor Arthur Slipp said residents have been "eagerly anticipating" the reopening of the border to see family and friends.
"This is very good news and it should be good on the social side but also the economic boom for the tourism industry," he said.
Slipp said he expects the U.S. to follow in easing restrictions.
"I think the fact that Canada opened first will give a little extra initiative on the American side to make sure Canadians can enter the United States."
Further north along the St. John River, the community of Edmundston is also welcoming the news — and ready for both sides of the border to open up with Madawaska, Maine.
"It's one community because we only cross and we're either on one side or the other side," said Mayor Eric Marquis.
"With the families that have not seen each other for a year and a half now, I expect that we're going to see a lot of people that are coming from the state of Maine that are going to cross into our communities to meet those families."