US land border opens to Canadians for nonessential travel

A white and blue building in the middle of the road that says Canada on the side.
The Fraser Border Crossing in Fraser B.C. (Mike Swasey/KHNS)

The U.S. land border opened Monday at 12:01 a.m. to fully vaccinated, nonessential travelers from Canada.

Some Yukoners like Andrew Cook of Whitehorse are excited about coming to visit some of his favorite spots in Skagway.

“I’m going to go into the Eagles Lodge, make sure everyone remembers me. Looking forward to catching up and getting all the news from the last couple of years,” Cook said. “Definitely looking forward to taking a little walk over to the grocery store. Seeing what fine delicacies that we Yukoners appreciate so much that you folks have down there. See if I can pick up maybe some cheese.”

At this point, no one seems sure how many Canadians will make the trek to Haines and Skagway after the border reopens. There are still stringent testing requirements for those travelers to get back into Canada.

“The only problem I have is this corona test they want us to get in Canada. You know, we’ve taken all the shots, we’ve done everything they wanted us to do, now they want us to get tested. It’s gonna cost us two or 300 bucks every time we want to go down there,” said Neil Runions, who owns an auto repair business in Whitehorse but keeps his boat in Skagway.

Runions said there’s only one clinic in Whitehorse that’s offering the tests that the Canadian border will accept, and they cost over $200 per person.

That could be putting some travelers off. Chelsey Stone from The White House Inn in Skagway said she has plenty of vacancies.

“We’ve had some inquiries. They’re excited. But, you know, they don’t know exactly when they’ll be allowed. So they’re just kind of holding off a little bit,” Stone said.

On Friday, the Dahl Memorial Clinic in Skagway told KHNS that they have travel-approved tests available for everyone by appointment for only $30. The Skagway Traditional Council is offering tests on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for no charge, and the SEARHC clinic in Haines is offering tests for just under $150 by appointment.

But that news hasn’t necessarily traveled north of the border. Sergeant Preston’s Lodge in Skagway said they’ve had inquiries, but no bookings as of Friday.

The Skagway Brewing Company, however, is making an effort to expand their hours with the expectation that the Canadians will soon be arriving. General Manager Claire Barrett says they’ll start opening on Saturday nights starting next weekend.

“We don’t really have any entertainment booked yet. But we are hosting the holiday bazaar. That is on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” said Barrett.

The U.S. border will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without a recent COVID test, though they will have to provide proof of vaccination. The Canadian border requires a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arriving at the border for entry into Canada. That means Canadians will need to test before entering the U.S. and return within three days, or they will need to get a test in the U.S.

Molecular tests such as PCR, NAT, NAAT and RT-LAMP tests are all accepted at the Canadian border. In Skagway the Dahl Memorial Clinic offers NAAT, at the Skagway Traditional Council they offer PCR, and in Haines, the SEARHC clinic offers NAAT tests.

If a Canadian traveler arrives at the Canadian border for re-entry without an approved test, they could face heavy fines and may have to quarantine at a designated quarantine facility.

Those who have recently contracted coronavirus but have recovered can present a positive test at the border after symptoms have abated and be allowed into the country without a quarantine restriction. Children under 18 do not need proof of vaccination if traveling with a vaccinated adult.

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