ALBANY – Welcome back, Canadians.
The U.S. plans to reopen the Canadian border to nonessential vaccinated travelers by early November, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said late Tuesday.
Schumer and other state and federal officials said they heard directly from the Biden administration of the change in policy, which had been in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Schumer said he spoke late Tuesday with Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“Kudos to President Biden for doing the right thing and increasing cross border travel between Canada and the U.S.,” Schumer said in a statement.
“The high vaccination rates on each side of the border have opened the door of safe cross border travel and will now safely increase the rebirth of the economic energy of upstate NY.”
New York officials have long been urging the federal government to reopen the border, especially after the Canadian government opened their side of the border to vaccinated U.S. travelers two months ago.
Having travelers be able to cross the border to the U.S. is a critical component of the nation’s economy, particularly in neighboring states including New York.
More:Welcome to Niagara Falls! Sorry about the view.
“I applaud our federal partners for reopening our borders to Canada, something I have called for since the beginning of the closure,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.
“Canada is not only our trade partner, but more importantly, Canadians are our neighbors and our friends. From Western New York to the North Country, I look forward to welcoming our Canadian neighbors back to New York as we continue to rebuild and recover from this pandemic.”
The U.S.-Canada border was shuttered when the pandemic first struck, but it has remained closed since. On Aug. 9, Canada reopened the border to vaccinated travelers from the U.S., but the U.S. hadn’t done so.
Schumer said the U.S. will allow Americans to fly into Canada with proof of a negative COVID test, but they cannot enter through a land port of entry without a vaccine.
There was no immediate comment from the White House about the planned policy change.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand noted that 78% of Canadians over the age of 12 are vaccinated, saying that reopening the border can be done safely for both countries.
“Finally, the New York-Canadian border will be open again to vaccinated travelers from both nations,” she said in a statement. “The northern border is an indispensable economic partnership and ties our two nations together.”
More:Traveling in Canada by plane or train? You’ll need to show proof of vaccination, starting Oct. 30
More:‘It’s confusing’: Americans navigate complicated rules to enter Canada as border reopens
Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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