Should New York Help Vaccinate Canadians?

Business and political leaders from our region said the closure of the border to all but essential traffic is hurting businesses and communities in the North Country.

The past year has also been incredibly difficult for families separated by the border. Tracy Simmons from Morrisonville, New York was unable to care for her elderly mother in Quebec when she became gravely ill.

New York Assemblyman Billy Jones is asking New York State’s Department of Health to, like a handful of other states, offer to give COVID shots to Canadians to help get their vaccination numbers up, staring with essential workers, and then including Canadians who own property in the state, or have close family living on this side of the border.

Jones, and the Chamber have reached out to both federal, and state leaders, asking for help getting the state health department to OK giving vaccines to Canadians, in the hopes it will help convince Ottawa to move ahead and get the border reopened. Canada has given its residents, with a doctor’s order, permission to cross the border to get vaccinated. So far, there’s been no response from the New York State Department of Health whether it would consider vaccinating Canadians.

  1. I am quite amazed by your reporting on the border closure on many aspects but I’ll only point out 2 surprising misunderstandings.

    1. Most of the people who appeared in your Report are asking Canada to open the border as if it was Canada blocking the border. I have owned a house in Canton, NY for the past 8 years but it is the US Border Agents who blocked me from entering the US last year, not the Canadian Border, because my trip was not deemed essential (no matter if I could not take care of my house in Canton since March 13, 2020… or wanted to go help my father in law whose house in Iowa was destroyed by a major storm last August – Search for “Derecho Cedar Rapids”). Your local officials are blatantly lying to you because there is NO effort made from the US Officials to even begin talking about the reopening of the border with Canadian officials. When they have talked about 1-2 weeks ago about the “renewal” of the May 21 edition of the monthly Agreement with their Canadian counterparts, they just said, as they have done since April 2020: let’s just renew it! NO word about even a first step toward talking about a reopening plan!

    2. And the proposal to vaccinate visitors to accelerate the opening of the border, as if we had less vaccination than in the US, is ludicrous: as of today, 55.2% of Quebecers have got their first dose while the US rate is only at 49.8% (see https://g.co/kgs/rXpts3 and https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/situation-coronavirus-in-quebec/covid-19-vaccination-data). I grant you that vaccination started earlier in the US than up North, but we are welcoming the vaccine in a much greater way than in the US so our vaccination rate is very quickly keeping up and we’ll soon have more fully vaccinated people than South of the border, simply because more people are taking measures (social distancing, masks, etc…) than anywhere in the US.

    I find it sad that our neighbours and friends in Canton are led to believe that the US want the border to open up when the reality if both governments don’t want to budge. The Canadian Government is reluctant to let Americans in because of the Fake News (QAnon et als) hype in the US which led to riskier behaviour (reluctance toward masking, vaccination…) – a belief shared by the vast majority of Canadians and Provincial Governments – and the American Government refuses to let anybody in who is not related to trade (truck drivers, etc…) because of the fear that we may spread the COVID (I was even told by the border patrol agent in Ogdensburg to drive on the Canadian side of the border up to Manitoba – a HUGE detour…- where the US Border “might” have let me in to go to Iowa…) Obviously, any “foreign” visitor was too “dangerous” to drive (alone in our car) to our house in Canton, NY (a 20 minutes drive)… At that time, I was willing to take the risk to go to Canton, NY, (an area with a much higher risk for COVID than my area in Quebec…) to secure our house (turn off natural gas, water…), but the US Border thought that I was a “high” risk, as E-V-E-R-Y traveller wanting to go thru the border (but for truck drivers, deemed essentials…)

    The real problem, which I have not heard in your Report, is that the rules put in place since March 2020 are too strict and don’t enable Border Patrol Agents use their judgement and discernment. Most of the problems may have been averted if we had more compassion (thinking about that woman who couldn’t help her mom before her death) or used our head to make sound decisions. North Country could have very well put in place strong public health measure, as was done in Quebec (compulsory masks, curfew, etc…), and create a safer “bubble” to facilitate movements of people between both sides of the border. Officials lacked the will and the imagination to apply sound measures while trying to maintain the century-old relationship between both sides of the border. They simply had a knee-jerk reaction (let’s forbid all “foreigners”…) with very little thinking about the impacts of such a decision. And to see them today asking Canadians to open the border is very upsetting as it is THEY who closed up the border and did nothing since March 2020 to find a solution. Blaming the others (as Trump did all the time…) is soooooo very easy!

    Interestingly, I could fly to Miami to visit my son who’s now living and working there (he has dual citizenship as his brothers and mom, but not I), but I could not drive to Canton, NY… Go figure!

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