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Border to reopen in November

A sign points the way to the Canadian border crossing near the Rouses Point United States Border Inspection Station. (Provided photo — Ben Rowe, Press-Republican)

PLATTSBURGH — The North Country was treated to exciting news late Tuesday night as word spread that the Canadian border will reopen to non-essential traffic soon.

Elected officials lined up Wednesday morning to tout the development.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said he had direct confirmation from Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas that the U.S. plans to reopen the U.S.-Canadian border to nonessential vaccinated travelers by early November.

The border has been closed to non-essential travelers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

“Kudos to president Biden for doing the right thing and increasing cross border travel between Canada and the U.S.,” Schumer said in a statement.

“The high vaccination rates on each side of the boarder have opened the door of safe cross border travel and will now safely increase the rebirth of the economic energy of Upstate New York.”

Schumer, and numerous other elected officials have been calling for a detailed plan for reopening based on science and agreed upon by public officials and health experts since May of this year.

Arguments for reopening the border focused largely on the impact on families and the economy.

While non-essential Canadians have not been able to cross the land border, they have been able to fly into the U.S. On Aug. 9, Canada reopened the border to vaccinated travelers from the U.S., but the U.S. held off on following suit.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, who lobbied hard for months for both governments to develop a plan for reopening, was pleased to hear the news.

“After more than 18 months of unprecedented separation and frustration, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel,” Douglas said.

“There are important details to be clarified by Homeland Security and by the CDC, but policy making is in play at last. After more than 18 months of unprecedented separation in a vacuum of planning, we may finally be seeing light at the end of a long tunnel.

“The network of partners that has grown up around this challenge in both countries has been incredible and will be of lasting value. And we must thank our federal and state partners who have been determined all along the way and will continue to engage as this process continues, including Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and the Northern Border Caucus in Congress, Assemblyman Billy Jones and Senator Dan Stec, among other active advocates.”

Douglas said two lost summers or the long impact on families and businesses cannot be replaced.

“But if this goes forward as indicated, we can share Christmas and welcome our Canadian travelers at Plattsburgh International Airport in time for the upcoming winter travel season,” he said.

“Most importantly, we will be able to at least start the long process of reconnecting.”

The Chamberm he said, is continuing to follow final elements of the emerging plan and will continue to advocate for reasonable standards and then for planning for subsequent phases of border normalization.

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