The US-Canada border has been closed for 16 months for most travelers, but with COVID cases decreasing in the US and widespread availability of the vaccine when will the US-Canadian border re-open?
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US Cases Dropping
As of yesterday, new US COVID-19 cases had dropped below 13,000. Those numbers haven’t been seen for more than a year. With widespread COVID-19 vaccine availability across the United States, and the US government offering vaccine doses to Canadians, cases should decrease.
Unfortunately, in Canada, there’s been a recent spike (now on the decline) that has caused some pause domestically. Mortality in the US has dropped precipitously, over the last three months. It appears that despite millions still testing positive, few are dying from the virus in the US now. Sadly, that is not the case elsewhere.
Canada took a hardline approach in March of 2020. To keep Canadians safe, the Canadian government restricted movement across the shared border to only essential travel with significant quarantine protocols.
Among those protocols is a need for essential travel, a negative COVID-19 test, three days in an approved US quarantine hotel and then self-isolation with an approved plan for the remainder of a 14-day period.
“Canada closed the border it shares with its largest trading partner to non-essential travel in March 2020. It also imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country from abroad. Travelers must now present a negative Covid-19 test and foot the bill for additional tests — and, if they fly in, go through a three-day hotel quarantine before being allowed to leave confinement.”
Circumstances for Re-Opening
Looking at the math for both countries, the caseload with respect to population is about two times higher in Canada than it is in the US currently. To reduce travel restrictions, one would have to assume that Canada would have its own situation under control, though I’d argue it largely is under control. The exception to that is the vaccination rate which in the United States is over 45%, while in Canada, just 12% have been fully inoculated – just over half of Canadians have been partially innoculated. The Canadian government has a much higher condition for re-opening:
“Eventually we’re going to start opening up travel,” Alghabra said at the same Ottawa press briefing. “But right now we’re focused on the third wave.” – Bloomberg
Public Safety Minister, Bill Blair, echoed these comments.
Canadian officials indicated that more Canadians will need to be “vaccinated for us to start loosening things in Canada.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid it out clearly:
“We’re all eager to get back to normal, but we know that before we get back to normal, cases need to be under control and over 75 percent of people need to be vaccinated. We’ll see what framework we apply to ensure we’re keeping Canadians safe, even as we look to eventually changing the restrictions and the posture at the border,” – Forbes
At the current moment, the border is to remain closed through July 21, 2021 – a reflection of the rolling March 21, 2020 closure to the US northern border month-by-month; and an extension from this post’s original June 21, 2021 target.
Officials at the federal level but also local communities that rely on free access on both sides of the border like Detroit, Michigan, and New York State have been engaged in public health talks. However, the 75% vaccination number for Canadian citizens appears to be firm.
The question that arises: will the Canadian border remain closed when the US is no longer the larger threat? Will it then allow its citizens to freely cross the border as they choose or only when its citizenry meets vaccination standards? At what point does this model only penalize Canada rather than protect it?
In this update, it appears that the 75% target has shifted to just one jab, not fully vaccinated:
“We’re not out of this pandemic yet, we’re still seeing cases across the country and we want to get them down. At the same time, we also know we have to hit our targets of 75 per cent vaccinated with the first dose, at least 20 per cent vaccinated with the second dose before we can start loosening things up because even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated,” he said.” – Forbes
The latest figures show that 64% have had at least one jab, though 51% are partially vaccinated Canadians. It’s possible that the border reopening may happen sooner for travel to Canada with proof of vaccination. Border restrictions could be reviewed for nonessential travel as soon as early July based on this new vaccine availability.
Setting a vaccination standard above what most health officials require may take longer than the rest of the world to meet. In doing so, Canada may penalize its citizens for not becoming inoculated. Vaccine availability is no longer a concern, resistance may be down to hesitancy. Regardless, it appears the US-Canada border will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
What do you think? If it takes years to achieve the standard, will Canada relent and open its borders anyway?
The main problem is that Canadia’s covid cases seem quite bad and they are not as vaccinated as we are. Maybe we should encourage Canada to vaccinate more to expedite the reopening process.
Let Canada get its own house in order first. Then we’ll talk.
They’ll open when Australia and New Zealand open. They all want to stay cut off forever.
Looks like their lockdowns are working huh?
Some provinces are closed to other Canadians. Do you think the Cdn Fed Gov will open US border before inter-provincial borders to other Canadians? Don’t get ahead of yourselves.
Kyle writes “To reduce travel restrictions, one would have to assume that Canada would have its own situation under control, though I’d argue it largely is under control.” It is NOT under control. British Columbia, which is not the hotbed of Covid like Toronto, has a no travel restriction between health districts. There are road blocks surrounding Vancouver. Vancouver, Vancouver Island (Victoria), Whistler are in different health districts and travel is prohibited with a few exceptions.
Another problem is Canadians are not vaccinated. Their rate is an embarrassment of the Western World, just 4%. The BBC reports now that the new Indian variant is covered by the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines (good news) but ONLY with 2 doses. With one dose, like they do in Canada, the two vaccines are only 30-33% effective, which is lousy. Only with 2 doses does the cover get to the high 60’s to 80’s percent efficacy (depending on vaccine brand).
Yet another problem is political. Canada currently allows non-essential travel from the US but bans essential travel. Yes, it’s true. Much of the “essential travel” deemed by Canada is actually non-essential and some of the “non-essential” travel is banned but the intended travel is actually essential. Crazy.
Another thing of bad politics is Montana and North Dakota offered to let Canadians get vaccinated. Just drive to the border, roll up your sleeve, get a free vaccine, and go home. No, said the Canadian government. The Canadian government said those people had to quarantine for 2 weeks if they did that, even if only for a vaccine shot and no shopping, just U-turn near the border. Crazy.
@CHRIS, their lockdowns are not working well because they are not true lockdowns. Lots of people driving around. Also their vaccination rates are horrible. Shows how lousy the Canadian health care system is. You cannot get fully vaccinated even if you beg and cry. Not so in the U.S.
“It appears that despite millions still testing positive, few are dying from the virus in the US now.”
Kyle, around 500 or so are still dying every day. Saying “few are dying” is like accepting that a plane crash every day that kills 500 passengers is “doing good.” Get vaccinated, people, or this never ends.
So many of the comments on here show a lack of understanding of the situation in Canada. Canada has no domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity and has relied on getting the vaccine from the US and, to a smaller extent, Europe. That didn’t work well, particularly at the beginning, with the US protectionist stance on vaccines.
The problem with the border is there is no political will in Canada right now to open the border. It won’t be happening anytime soon.
@Kyle, are you and your wife vaccinated?
The US is a big country. Even if 60% of our population is vaxxed, that leaves 150MM non vaccinated people who could visit Canada. The border will reopen eventually, but considering the approach Canada took, doing so now would be understandably premature, especially considering Canadians essentially have full access to the USA.
We (used to) travel a lot. Vancouver is a good place to explore Roofdeckia and Puerto del Sofá.
This is Victoria Day long weekend in Canada. Each province makes its own rules. At present, our BC restaurants have no indoor service, bars are closed, and the population has been told that staying home is clever. There are road blocks roughly 100 miles away on rials that lead out of Vancouver. Essential travel that crosses those and the international border is commercial trucking, people seeking health care, but not tourism, visiting a cabin, or seeing the family. We are not even allowed to see our neighbours indoors. We are wearing masks indoors with – get this – full adherence, and mostly outdoors. The population by and large follows these limits, with a very few protesters that are getting no popular, political, or legal supports. Canada has just hit 50% of the population vaccinated once. Our vaccine supplies have so far come from Europe and India. The US production resources have gone to getting the residents of the US looked after.
Our hotel, restaurant, tourism industries are in a complete shambles.
All that being said, the science is that travel and contact spreads airborne viruses. It would be highly negligent to open borders only to have further waves of infection, and business failures, to wake up to. We have already done that.
@Stuart – I didn’t say we were all out of the woods, but I take your point but also bristle at the premise. In a strong flu season, 65,000 Americans die annually or 178/day. There’s a shot for that too. Also according to the CDC, pneumonia takes the lives of 43,881/year or about 120/day. Remember that the CDC last year lumped influenza, Pneumonia, and Covid into one reporting metric so statistically, of the Covid cases, there could be up to 298 of those 500 that are from the other categories.
We more or less “accept” the deaths of about 300 Americans/day to two of those diseases, and we aren’t likely to get COVID to 0 now or ever. The question we have to start asking ourselves, is when is this like any other virus/disease and what is the acceptable risk factor. You said we wouldn’t accept a jet crashing everyday, but we already do. So as grim as it sounds, what is that number?
Pneumonia is NOT a transmittable disease. It is the pathological result of an infection (from bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc. – if you swallow water or food down the trachea by accident, you risk pneumonia). So don’t use the number of pneumonia patients to justify particular containment strategies or lack thereof for particular pathogens, as you only correlate the existence of particular pathogens with particular pathological responses in a given population. Influenza is indeed a unique group of pathogens, and a comparison between it and Covid is justifiable.
The problem with Covid is that current healthcare systems are not equipped (i.e. resources, personnel – mostly personnell) to deal with another highly transmissable pathogen with high mortality (not lethality). So if people expect a healthcare system to deal with all the other communicable & non-communicable diseases and accident related injuries on top of the Covid-pathogen, you either need to significantly beef up the healthcare system or you need to accept a catastrophe-medicine mindset (long wait times, triage, increasing number of preventable deaths). A relatively easy way to guard against communicable diseases and their strain on healthcare systems are vaccines, hence the medical necessity to get as many people vaccinated as possible. This is the strategy nearly all western healthcare systems pursue with Influenza (yearly booster shot) and most likely will be the strategy for Covid as well.
The problem here is to get a certain percentage of the population *fully* vaccinated so that the total number of patients does not overly strain or even overwhelm healthcare providers. That is the goal for Covid as well. The US is likely closing in on this goal in parts of the US, while other countries like Canada are far away from it. Add to this a severly constrained healthcare system that already struggled with non-pandemic workloads and you can approximate that the opening of the border between Canada, the US, and the rest of the world will likely be in the far future (except perhaps for fully vaccinated travelers). In my view, Canada is pursuing the correct policy for its healthcare system, even if I personally don’t like it.
@Kyle I will avoid going into your usual cherry picking of facts. Or out right idiocy. I’m sure others will, especially on the lumping of Flu etc into Covid deaths. That is a well known hoax and I suggest you stop with it or lose all credibility. Well, more than you already lost over the past year. Kind of like calling Azul an airline that is focused on U.S. flights – you always seem to miss the big picture. And reality.
I am not saying anything should be different to what we are doing. And I do want to see things open up even more, borders etc. But if the vaccinations rates do not pick up by fall you will see another wave – where there is a possibility of far more than what Flu deaths offer each season. Further, the science we have created now with vaccines could lead to amazing breakthroughs that could, in all of our lifetimes, alleviate these seasonal viruses. It’s simple, get the vaccine or prepare for a winter that will far exceed Flu season. And lead us into this roller coaster of border closures, mandates, etc. Do it because you don’t like masks, don’t want restrictions, and want us to all live again like we did.
Otherwise, if not, stop wearing your seatbelt, go smoke, snort some cocaine, get fat, don’t go to the doctor, never use sunscreen, and gargle with bleach. Freedom.
Oh, and believe me, if 500 people died in avoidable plane crashes each day in accidents that technology and science could have prevented you would see us riding horse and carriage until it was fixed. Covid is an avoidable plane crash. Science gave us the prevention. Get the hell on board.
Kyle, lay off my buddy Stuart. He gives great headache.
If Canada wants to keep playing this game we need to up the stakes – no Canadians allowed to enter the US.
@derek , Being a bit aggressive with claiming Canada is an embarrassment to the Western World. Remember they have had a 4 month wait for their second dose oppose to 3 weeks. Considering they will be done 1st shots in a month and the 16 weeks is coming up for a lot of people. Watch that “fully vaccinated” % shoot up in the next couple months, in the same manner how that 1st dose % jumped up in the last month (25% of the population).
People with an interest in/need to travel believe the world revolves around them and their desires. I suspect the situation in Canada is similar to Australia: a major survey released yesterday showed that 80% of Australians do not want borders to reopen until the population is fully vaccinated . That is not lost on the national government, with an election looming. In the context of a very strong , rebounding economy, with no reliance on tourism, and no inhibition of trade, they simply won’t open any time soon just to meet the lifestyle/travel preferences of the 20%. Not gonna happen. Probably same for Canada?
@Kyle, you are relying on distortions and utter falsehoods to make Covid seem like a relatively normal disease. Only once in the years between 2010 and 2020 did deaths from influenza exceed 60,000 (by 1,000). More often, the number of deaths. In 2011, only 12,000 (an outlier on the low side) people died from flu. More often, the mortality is between 35,000 and 40,000, though it can go lower and on a couple of occasions somewhat higher. In the bad years, the health people do go into overdrive calling for vaccinations and social care. The statement that the CDC lumped flu, pneumonia and Covid deaths is a lie spread by Robert F, Kennedy, Jr. and deleted from Facebook as false (https://www.factcheck.org/2020/12/instagram-post-distorts-facts-on-covid-19-death-reporting/). As another point of reference, my home state of Florida has slightly more than half the population of Canada but about twice the number of deaths. Which approach – Florida’s or Canada’s – was more responsible depends on whether someone you loved was among the dead. The fact that Canadians are primarily clustered in high density housing comparable to New York or New Jersey without the ability to spend much time outdoors during a very long winter means they are also coping with much greater transmission challenges than open air Florida. Maybe you should stick to reviewing planes and hotels.
@James A Smith – The US was certainly hit harder than Canada and I don’t condemn their choice, but I find it unrealistic. Israel would disagree with me and that’s what makes the world go round. Then again, France and Germany have held the same policies as Canada and yet had very different results. I’m not sure you can compare any one nation and its outcome to another – Osaka, Japan is another example.
You’ve said the annual mortality for the flu is closer to 35-40k. Using the lower end, that’s still 96/day not including pneumonia (98/day). To be clear, despite having a shot, we do not believe the flu will ever become completely eradicated. Even in the lowest year you mentioned (12,000) that’s still 33 that died every day, for a year. And while the RFK Jr citation you included may be false, it would also be shocking that just 1800 CASES of flu were officially reported in 2020 – that’s from the CDC directly and (cited in another comment.) So it brings up two questions, both of which remain unanswered – Do you think Canada will get to 75% before they reopen; and assuming zero is not an option, what is the acceptable number of deaths from COVID annually?
Canadians don’t care if you think Covid isn’t a big deal. They do. And that’s all that matters. Watching the recklessness of too many people in this country, I would say that the Canadians have a right to keep us out.
Deaths from flu and pneumonia could be greatly reduced if people got the darn shots. Until a few weeks ago, that wasn’t true for Covid here and still isn’t true for Canadians. As many epidemiologists have pointed out, there’s no need to build extra morgues to handle flu and pneumonia deaths even in the worst years.
Not all Canadians are paranoid about Covid, it is in itself a survivable illness (unless you are elderly or compromised health). Albeit most are brainwashed paranoid schitzoids. But I digress; as I said to many before, once the hockey playoffs reach the point of needing to cross border for the sake of the “game” the border will open as most folks with common sense will scream like stuck pig if professional athletes are allowed to cross without testing, or quarantining for 2 weeks. And here we are, most likely next week Montreal will need to travel to the US for game 1 of round 3 of playoffs and WOW hey we need to open the border..
And it has been proven that those who have recovered from it, are immune PERMANENTLY and asymptomatic folks CANNOT transmit. As it is like any other illness one must have a fever to be contagious.
You said “Vaccine availability is no longer a concern” well, Millions of Canadians waiting for second jab. Supply that US prevented export to Canada. Doesn’t take long for a little bit of research.
Unfortunately, your information is incorrect.
1) Two producers in the US have been shipping 2.4M doses per week since late May plus another million from Moderna for the month of June. Given the relatively small population of Canada (37M), this allows for a majority of Canadians to be fully vaccinated. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/canada-to-receive-2-9m-vaccine-doses-this-week-as-pfizer-biontech-increase-deliveries-1.5449303
2) The vaccine development was funded by the US government in the case of US producers and then purchased by the government (that’s paying for it twice) so having access to the first US vaccines produced seems prudent to me.
3) Canada had access to other vaccines (Astra Zeneca, as well as Chinese, and Russian versions) if they so chose.
4) Canadian health ministers have withheld 300,000 of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine on concerns (enough to inoculate 1% of Canadians alone.)
Canada did approve the Astra Zeneca vaccine, but not the Chinese or Russian vaccines. AZ has proved controversial. First there were supply problems, then there was concern about blood clots, so giving it as a first dose was paused. (Just after I got my first dose). It was then offered as a second dose, but then paused again. (Just after I got my second dose.) Currently available vaccines in Canada are only Pfizer and Moderna, and both have had supply problems over the past few months, though these problems do seem to be behind us.
When 94% of Canada’s supply is used and Canadians continue to clamour for second shots, it seems clear supply constraints remain a reason more Canadians are not fully vaccinated as of today. This will change quickly, but your information is actually incorrect.
On Point 4, the JnJ shots did not pass QC checks (just as many in the United States), so were not used. You’re seriously arguing that Canada should use these? Mmmm okay.
As mentioned, your info is also out-0f-date: I realise that this is an update to an earlier post, but you’ve updated some figures and not others… confusing read. Just over 19% of Canada’s population (and about 22% of the eligible) population is now fully vaccinated.
Justin Trudeau is just playing politics. Those who are vaccinated should be allowed. It could be like yellow fever. No vaccination, no entry unless you bribe them.
Biden should offer Canada a deal. Open up to vaccinated Americans and he gets 10M doses of vaccine. Refuse and Quebec City is bombed followed by London, Ontario the next month. Oh wait, Biden is Irish/English, not from Sicily.
Uhh…great idea derek. Will you be my friend? Can I sniff your hair?
Your Canadian vaccination stats are out of date. As of 20 June 2021 65.8% of Canadians have received at least one dose and about 18.5% are fully vaccinated. That first figure is the highest in the world, and well above the US rate. Canada opted for a strategy of emphasizing first doses to as many as possible by delaying second doses. Although it was controversial at the time, it seems to be paying off. But herd immunity depends on a certain (unknown) high percentage of a population being fully vaccinated. (75%? 85%? 95%?) We’re not there yet. Nor is the US. Yes, numbers of cases and deaths are down significantly from peaks, but people are still getting sick and dying in both countries and yet there are voices in both countries calling for a much more rapid opening than is prudent.
As to when the border will reopen, my guess is sometime after the fourth wave is over in the US.
Correction: fifth wave.