Governor Jay Inslee asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to reopen the Washington border between Canada and the U.S.
Inslee urged federal officials to consider an immediate full or partial reopening of the U.S.-Canadian border. The move would provide immediate relief for individuals, small businesses, and communities impacted by the prolonged border closure.
According to Laurie Trautman, Director of the Western Washington University Border Policy Research Institute, the border shutdown has hit Whatcom County especially hard. A report released by the university last year indicated 42% of Canadians cross the border on short, frequent trips to Blaine, Lynden and Sumas. The study also found $140 million was spent in the area in 2018, representing about 11.5% of Whatcom county’s taxable retail sales.
Inslee’s letter stated, “Washington state has taken a science-based approach to the pandemic and has enacted public health measures that prioritize safety and protect the lives of Washingtonians.” Inslee requested the U.S. and Canadian governments work to find innovative ways to reopen and the letter ends by noting that more than 60% of British Columbia residents have received a first dose of vaccination, and a similar percentage of Washingtonians have been vaccinated. Those numbers bring an interesting comparison to light.
The Bellingham Herald recently reported only 60% of Canadian adults have received one shot of the vaccine while only 7% are fully vaccinated. In British Columbia, 59.5% are partially vaccinated, while only 3.5% are fully vaccinated. This begs the question of whether reopening the border will lead to an influx of British Columbians crossing the border to receive their second dose. Similar border crossings happened across county lines in Washington. It is possible there will be an increase in U.S.-Canada border traffic when the restrictions are eventually lifted. Will vaccine tourism add to the return of Canadian commerce in Whatcom County and northern Washington? That question may be answered by the end of the month.