Canada announces border to open Aug. 9 for vaccinated Americans

A canada flag next to a us flag
KUAC file photo

The Canadian government announced Monday it will open its border Aug. 9 to vaccinated Americans.

Travelers will have to upload proof they’ve been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus for at least two weeks. They will also have to get tested within 72 hours of arrival and submit a negative test result.

The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since March of last year. Opening it is a boon for Alaska snowbirds who drive south in the fall, and for certain businesses that depend on road and ferry traffic. But not all of them. 

 “I thought it was bad last year. But it’s worse this year,” said Cathy Knighten, owner of Grizzly Lake Campground.

Her business is on the Tok cutoff, 160 miles from the border. Nobody takes the cutoff unless they’re going to or from Canada, she said, other than Europeans who have weeks of vacation to drive the roads less traveled.

Knighten is less than thrilled with Canada’s announcement of the Aug. 9 date. The immediate effect on her little RV park was not good: She got a cancellation from people who were counting on the border opening earlier.

“They felt like it was too late for them to come this year,” she said.

Knighten said they’ve been operating at about 10% capacity.

At Slide Mountain Cabins and RV Park, Mile 135 of the Glenn Highway, owner Anna Stark is also underwhelmed by the news.

 “I’m hopeful,” she said. “But also I’m not like, ‘Oh, I’m so excited.’ Because what I find is a lot of RV-ers — they’re planning these trips out months in advance.”

There’s no time left in the season for that. 

While the border restrictions have kept Lower 48 RVs out, they’ve also kept Alaska RVs in. Stark said her family-run operation has been pivoting toward Alaska traffic anyway, and they saw a lot more repeat customers this year.

“Alaskans are staying close to home and looking for things to do,” she said. “After just being cooped up a lot in the city and whatnot, they’re ready to just get out and travel around.”

She said her business was able to grow over the past two seasons.

Even though the border is closed to tourists, Alaskans have generally been allowed to pass if they could show they needed to transit Canada for work or school, or to get home.

Now, they’ll have to use the ArriveCAN app or web portal to send their vaccine status and test result.

At first, Canada is only opening the border to American citizens and permanent residents. It intends to begin allowing visitors from other countries to enter on Sept. 7.

Knighten, on the Tok Cutoff, said she’s sure her business will pick up when Europeans can return.

“I think if Europe opens up, then then we’ll be fine,” she said.

This story has been updated.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

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