With vaccination rates rising rapidly in Canada, Vermont's 15 crossings with Québec could reopen this summer, members of Gov. Phil Scott's administration said on Tuesday.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the country will begin to relax its restrictions — including the closure of its U.S. border — once 75 percent of the country’s eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The number is currently around 64 percent, according to Vermont Human Services Secretary Mike Smith, who said 12 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated. And the country's vaccination campaign is moving fast, Smith said — faster than the U.S. campaign, although the two countries' vaccination rates are now about the same.
“With one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, its cases have also fallen significantly,” Smith said of Canada. He added that Québec, too, has seen vaccination rates rise quickly: nearly 70 percent of its population has had at least one dose. Québec is now easing COVID-related restrictions in Montréal and Québec City, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
To limit the spread of the coronavirus, Canada closed its U.S. border to nonessential travel on March 21, 2020. The decision has curtailed movement for many Vermonters who regularly visited Québec, and it has cut sharply into revenues for northern businesses, many of which relied on travelers from the populous province for as many as half of their visitors.
The restrictions are set to expire June 21, but officials on both sides of the border expect them to be renewed, according to the U.S. News and World Report.
Gov. Scott said governors from the New England states are keeping pressure on the Biden and Trudeau administrations to open the border as soon as possible.
“That 90 miles is critical for a lot of businesses that depend on summer tourism,” Scott said.
A few weeks ago, some American governors offered to send surplus doses of the vaccine to Québec to help them speed up the process. Those doses, though, weren’t needed, according to Vermont officials.
Scott said that Vermont is prepared to administer COVID-19 vaccines to Canadians who need to cross into the state to work.
The next move appears to be up to our neighbors to the north.
"Some of the premiers, reading their constituents, are saying they're a bit apprehensive about opening up the border," Scott said. "I'm not sure they're as excited about this as we are at this point."