Washington Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter this month to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting immediate full or partial reopening of the U.S.-Canadian border to provide relief for individuals and communities along the Washington-British Columbia border.
Inslee is a Democrat who has enacted harsh lockdown policies in Washington State to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. He is requesting the use of a vaccine passport at the border, which would be voluntary for re-entry into the United States.
All of Washington moved into Phase 3 of Inslee’s reopening plan after a two-week pause in May. In Phase 3, event facilities with permanent seating are allowed to seat at 25 percent capacity for spectators who are physically distanced and wearing masks. Bars and restaurants are limited to 50 percent capacity. The state may fully reopen on June 30.
But Inslee wants the Biden Administration to pressure Canada to loosen its restrictions. Currently, the border is closed to all but essential traffic, which means Alaska border communities such as Haines, Skagway, and Hyder are cut off from commercial and transportation centers on the Canadian side of the border, and the entire state is cut off from
The letter reads, in part:
“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. Because of rising vaccination rates, Washington State has a plan to reopen our economy statewide by June 30. Therefore, I respectfully request that the United States and Canadian governments, and specifically your departments, work to find innovative ways to reopen the border consistent with public health guidance.
“If a full border opening is not considered feasible, I would like to recommend that we prioritize the development of specific policies to partially open crossings. The hardships being experienced along the U.S.-Canadian border are significant, and measurable forward progress is needed,” Inslee wrote.
In addition to a reopening of the border, the governor also asked for additional actions, including:
- A binational approach that uses the NEXUS program as a way for travelers to voluntarily share vaccine records electronically with both the US and Canada.
- Using the ArriveCAN platform that is required for entry into Canada to share vaccine records and/or negative test results.
“The state of Washington and our friends in British Columbia stand ready to assist the federal governments in the development of pilot programs to safely open the border. We share a sense of urgency in meeting the needs of our impacted communities, with more than 60 percent of BC residents having received a first dose of vaccination, and a similar percentage of Washingtonians vaccinated, we believe that we can significantly mitigate the health risks associated with reopening our border by continuing to follow a data-driven, science-based approach and the guidance of our public health experts,” Inslee wrote.
Read the full letter here.