Windsor

'Frustrating' border restrictions mean young kids can't attend school for 14 days after short U.S. trips

Crossing the Windsor-Detroit border for fun and entertainment no longer "makes any sense" for Kristen Siapas and her four young children because of the Canadian requirement that places restrictions on kids once they get home. 

Federal rules also say some children must 'limit contact with others' upon returning to Canada

Kristen Siapas, right, her four children and husband take a day trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan prior to the start of the pandemic. (Kristen Siapas)

Crossing the Windsor-Detroit border for fun and entertainment no longer "makes any sense" for Kristen Siapas and her four young children because of the Canadian requirement that places restrictions on kids once they get home. 

Children under the age of 12 who aren't fully vaccinated and cross the border into the U.S. cannot attend school for 14 days once they return. They also face a number of other limitations:

  • cannot attend large or crowded settings.
  • cannot take crowded public transportation.
  • isn't permitted to attend settings, such as long-term care homes, where vulnerable people reside.

"I think it's frustrating.This is going to keep families apart," said Siapas, adding while she still understands the easing of restrictions is meant to keep people safe. "It's going to be something that makes it really difficult for people to live."

Essentially, young children who cross the border must "limit contact with others," according to a memo from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit sent to school boards and parents. It highlights federal and provincial restrictions around international travel for those under the age of 12.

The memo comes less than a few weeks until the federal government lifts the requirement for fully vaccinated Canadians to take a PCR test for re-entry.

"These restrictions being lifted are supposed to be a great thing, but for families that are trying to be reunited with family members across the border, it doesn't even mean they'll be able to spend Christmas with them without isolating for 14 days when they get back and cutting into their kids' education," said Siapas.

Kristen Siapas and her children would enjoy frequent visits to Michigan for leisure pre-COVID and said she hopes restrictions ease enough where that could happen again soon. (Kristen Siapas)

Pre-COVID, Siapas and her husband would take their four children — ages six, nine, 11 and 13 — across the border frequently for leisure. They even had an annual pass to the Henry Ford Museum because her son loves trains.

"If my kids are going to have to isolate for 14 days, it doesn't make any sense for us to do our regular weekend visit or go out for dinner," said Siapas.

Although Health Canada said unvaccinated minors accompanied by a vaccinated adult are "exempt from quarantine," a spokesperson tells CBC News the kids are still subject to "enhanced public health measures."

"All unvaccinated children (except those under five years of age) remain subject to the arrival and post-arrival testing requirements," said Anne Génier, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

As of Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadians returning home from trips to the U.S. that are less than 72 hours won't be required to present a negative COVID-19 test. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

She said any decision to modify and ease border restrictions will be examined with a scientific lens, while considering public health measures.

In its letter to parents, the local health unit did outline what kids under the age of 12 can do during the 14 days after returning home from an international trip:

  • visit uncrowded public settings such as parks, beaches or going for a walk.
  • gather outdoors on your own property with people from multiple households.
  • gather with a small group of people from outside the household who are all known to be fully vaccinated.
  • take uncrowded public transportation such as a taxi, or rideshare provided masks are worn at all times by. all parties.
  • accompany you to essential settings such as a grocery store or pharmacy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Viau is a video journalist, TV host and radio newsreader at CBC Windsor. He was born in North Bay, but has lived in Windsor for most of his life. Since graduating from St. Clair College, he's worked in print, TV and radio. Email him at jason.viau@cbc.ca

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