Canadians should be mindful of vaccination rates in U.S.

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

An announcement about the US.-Canada border reopening has been something many border businesses and tourists have been waiting for. The day has finally come and American tourists will be allowed to cross over to Canada, but with the spread of the Delta variant, there is some worry.

After almost two years of border closure brought by pandemic restrictions, the U.S.-Canada border is set to open on Aug. 9, allowing only fully vaccinated and Covid-tested Americans to cross over to Canada.

Fort Frances, being a main border crossing, will see vehicles ready to cross in less than two weeks. But with different vaccination rates in both countries, especially in northwestern Ontario versus Minnesota and bordering counties, some believe opening should be delayed.

Northwestern Ontario is leading the province in the numbers of fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and residents, sitting at a 67.1 per cent vaccination rate for those aged 12 and older.

On the other hand, the vaccination rate in Minnesota is 53.5 per cent for fully vaccinated individuals. As of July 25, about 48.3 per cent of residents of Koochiching County are fully vaccinated.

American tourists from Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and Illinois are common visitors to Canada through the Fort Frances border.

Wisconsin falls second place after Minnesota at a 51.5 per cent of full vaccination rates and Michigan is at 48.6 per cent.

At 39.9 per cent, North Dakota is the state with the least fully vaccinated citizens from those listed above. South Dakota stands at 46.6 per cent of fully vaccinated citizens.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), said there is always the risk that the Delta variant comes to our catchment area with increased travelling.

However, Young Hoon said she encourages everyone to be mindful of where they are travelling and to continue following public health measures as best as they can.

“The risk increases with the more households and people you interact with,” Young Hoon said. “Vaccination status of the people you interact with would be important. And then also things like wearing masks in indoor public spaces and physical distancing.”

Young Hoon acknowledges that this is a complex area for people to navigate as it does require doing a risk assessment of their activities to try and minimize the likelihood of picking up COVID-19, but that it is necessary.

“Recognizing that we are all opening up and people are still taking this opportunity to interact and reconnect with close friends and family,” Young Hoon said.