Historic restrictions that limited travel into the United States are set to lift Monday for fully vaccinated international visitors with proof.
That means that Canadians – and other visitors flying from nations like China, India and Brazil – can reunite with family after many months, look for shopping deals and attend some Red Wings and Lions games.
“Everyone,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said, “is looking forward to breathing” a bit more when the border reopens.
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Be ready for Canadian tourists, just not a sudden surge of them.
Dilkens said a Canadian travel requirement – having negative polymerase chain reaction test that can cost $200 – is likely to prevent many who want to drive from Ontario to Michigan from doing so.
He explained the testing provision doesn’t make sense for day trippers nor does it provide the kind of health assurance the government thinks it does because someone could easily contract the virus during their visit.
He wants to see that requirement lifted.
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“Twenty months of separation has been hard on a lot of people,” Dilkens told the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network. “We’ve always considered Detroit to be an extension of our backyard. On the business side, we’re tightly integrated, but also on the family side.”
From a personal perspective, Dilkens said he hasn’t been able to go visit his older brother, Tom, and his family, who live on the Detroit side of the border.
When his niece got married, his parents had to take a circuitous route by air via Toronto and Montreal to get in and out of the United States, instead of just driving across the border to Detroit.
It was one of the quirks of the Homeland Security rules.
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The Canadian border reopened in August for fully vaccinated U.S. citizens.
Here are some other details of the border openings:
Requirements to enter?
For the first time since March 2020, non-citizen travelers will be permitted to enter the U.S. through land borders and ferry terminals for a non-essential reason – mainly, that means tourism.
You must have proof of an approved vaccination, verbally attest to travel intent and vaccination status, and have an acceptable ID, such as a passport, enhanced driver’s license or enhanced tribal card.
What vaccines are accepted?
Accepted vaccines include those approved and authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that have an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization.
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When are you fully vaccinated?
You are fully vaccinated 14 days after a single-dose vaccine, the second dose of a two-dose vaccine, the full series of an active vaccine in the U.S.-based AstraZeneca or Novavax trials, or a mixed combination of vaccines given 17 days apart.
What about children?
Children, who until recently had no approved vaccine, are not required to have vaccinations to travel to the United States once the ban is lifted, but they still must show proof of negative coronavirus tests before entering.
Will border wait times increase?
Yes, of course, especially at the busiest crossings.
Can you shorten wait times?
The Department of Homeland Security suggests using a digital application, also known as CBP One, to speed border crossings. The free app is designed to allow eligible travelers to submit their passport and customs declaration information.
It aims to streamline the traveler’s entry process into the United States by reducing passport control inspections and overall wait times. The app can be downloaded from the Apple App store and Google Play.
Detroit-Windsor Tunnel payment?
The tunnel will remain cashless on the Detroit side for vehicles headed to Canada. The Canadian side will take cash tolls through the end of the year. The cashless system relies on credit cards, debit cars and mobile payments. Or travelers can sign up for an electronic Nexpress account, which offers a toll discount.
Will tunnel traffic increase?
Since March of last year, traffic has been down by 70%, said Carolyn Brown, the tunnel’s CEO. But she added the tunnel is fully staffed and ready for an increase of travelers after Monday.
She said they have “restrained optimism” that the numbers will return. In 2019, traffic through the tunnel was 160,000 vehicles a week. In 2020, it dropped to 32,000, and this year it came up somewhat to 50,000.
Brown – who declined to indicate how much revenue was lost beyond “a lot” and “millions” – said that she’s calling it restrained optimism because a required virus test could keep the vehicle traffic numbers down.
What about ferry terminals?
Ferry lines can reopen, but it’s unclear whether all of them will.
The Walpole Algonac Ferry Service, between Algonac and Walpole Island, Canada, for instance, shut down in 2020. Its voicemail message, as of Thursday, hasn’t been changed since it closed.
Its website has no update either, saying only that: “We are NOT running!!! Please be patient as we get ready to resume operations. We will post HERE when we plan to open. We can’t wait to see you!”
Closed border’s human toll?
It’s difficult to measure the human toll the closed border has taken, but Edward Alden – the Ross distinguished visiting professor at Western Washington University – wrote a Foreign Policy column earlier this year that made the case that the “lockdown” destroyed lives.
He used his own experience as an upstate New York native who moved to Vancouver, married a Canadian, and often crossed the border until the pandemic. He said the human costs of closing international borders have been tremendous.
He urged more government cooperation and compassion, noting that one person who was separated from a loved one said the closure killed her mental health in a way she never could have imagined.
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Will things ever return to normal?
Windor’s mayor believes that a big step toward that is “harmonizing” the rules so that folks can resume travel over the border without expensive tests. At the right time, he said, he hopes that the vaccination restrictions will lift, too.
Eventually, he said, we will be able to return to prepandemic travel, but “I think we’re looking at years, as opposed to months, before that happens, and that’s tough for small businesses to hang on and wait for that good day to come.”
That, he added, is “just the reality of the situation we find ourselves.”
Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or [email protected]