Windsor

Windsorites 'blown away' to learn they can soon travel to the U.S.

Senior U.S. officials announced Tuesday night a plan to begin reopening the land borders with Canada, which have been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020, for fully vaccinated travellers.

Details are still being worked out around mixed dose vaccines and proof of vaccination

Tina Ouellette and her boyfriend James Washington haven't seen one another since last August. (Submitted by Tina Ouellette)

For the first time since the pandemic began, the end of the U.S. land border closure is in sight, a development that has sparked excitement here in Windsor-Essex.

For Tina Ouellette, the re-opening of the border means she'll be able to drive to see her boyfriend, who lives about 45 minutes away in Michigan.

Given the extended closure of the border, she thought she was going to have to spend another Christmas without him.

"I was actually blown away and surprised because honestly it was getting to the point where I didn't think it was going to open into the new year," she said. "I didn't have any more hope or faith because it seemed like every month came around, it got pushed another month."

Ouellette said she was able to see him in August, but had to pay for a flight to Detroit from Toronto, because while the land border was closed, the border has been open to air travellers.

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020, the first day the border closed to non-essential travel due to COVID-19. (Rod Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens was also among those excited to hear the news. 

"Twenty months in the making, there are so many people in our community that are just waiting for this opportunity to cross back into Detroit to connect with families," he said.

Senior U.S. officials announced Tuesday night a plan to begin reopening the land borders with Canada, which have been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020, for fully vaccinated travellers.

A number of details are still being worked out, including the type of documentation that will be accepted to prove a traveller's vaccination status and the exact reopening date.

But travellers won't be required to take a COVID-19 test to enter the country, which is currently part of the Canadian re-entry restrictions.

Dilkens said there are outstanding questions about whether people who received two different vaccine products, and the issue of testing and harmonization over those requirements. 

"Those are issues that I'm sure are being resolved, if they haven't been resolved already. We just need communication so we understand what the pathway is so that everyone can get prepared," he said.

Dilkens doesn't have concerns about safety since only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to cross.

"You're talking about people who have the best protection against COVID-19, and frankly, we have to figure out how to deal with this for the next few years because the virus is not going away any time soon."

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, the acting medical officer of health, said he was waiting to see the policy and guidance from U.S. officials, but said as always, the health unit encourages people to follow basic public health advice such as social distancing and wearing a mask.

View from the other side

Usha Desouza lives in Troy, Mich., about 20-30 minutes north of Detroit. She is originally from Canada, and came back to visit family in August.

Usha Desouza lives in Troy, Mich. (CBC)

She said though the state is at a heightened alert level because of COVID-19, "Canadians should definitely feel safe to come to Michigan."

Desouza didn't think there were any government mandates in effect, like mask or vaccine requirements, and the restaurants she had been to recently didn't have any.

"If they have any reservations whatsoever, they can just don their masks. If they're vaccinated … I think they should feel comfortable."

Desouza said she is excited for another sign of progress.

"I'd really like to have that return to normal," she said.

"From from my personal view, I'd love to just go back to Canada to see my family very often without having to test each time."

With files from Jacob Barker, Jason Viau, Katie Simpson, Nick Boisvert and Alexander Panetta

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