People walk adjacent to the border with Canada at the Peace Arch in Peace Arch Historical State Park, where cars behind wait to enter Canada at the border crossing Aug. 9 in Blaine. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

People walk adjacent to the border with Canada at the Peace Arch in Peace Arch Historical State Park, where cars behind wait to enter Canada at the border crossing Aug. 9 in Blaine. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

U.S. reopens Canada border after 597 days of COVID closure

Ports are once again allowing crossings for tourism, shopping or visiting family and friends.

By David Rasbach / The Bellingham Herald

Traffic is once again flowing in both directions at the U.S.-Canada border Monday, Nov. 8, after the U.S. began allowing vaccinated Canadians to enter.

The move comes 597 days after the two countries each restricted travel to “essential” crossings only in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

As of 8 a.m., all five Ports of Entry from British Columbia into Whatcom County were once again allowing “non-essential” travel, such as crossings for tourism, shopping or visiting family and friends.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border wait times for passenger vehicles were generally about average or a little above average as of 8 a.m.:

Blaine-Peace Arch: Five minutes (average at 8 a.m. is five minutes).

Blaine-Pacific Highway: Five minutes (average at 8 a.m. is five minutes).

Lynden-Guide Meridian: 20 minutes (average at 8 a.m. is 10 minutes).

Sumas: 15 minutes (average at 8 a.m. is seven minutes).

Point Roberts: Five minutes (average at 8 a.m. is five minutes).

Wait times at the Peace Arch crossing at midnight, when the border officially reopened, were 10 minutes, according to CBP, and were at to 20 minutes at 7 a.m., before returning to more normal levels at 8 a.m. The Pacific Highway crossing also saw 10-minute waits at midnight and a high of 20 minutes at 6 a.m.

Canada Border Services Agency was reporting a 17-minute wait at the Aldergrove/Lynden crossing and five-minute waits at the Abbotsford/Sumas crossing for northbound traffic.

Other Points of Entry along the U.S. border saw much higher traffic volume waiting for the border open than crossings into Whatcom County experienced.

A twitter post by Bounce Radio 1240 host Brock Jackson showed a long line of Canadians, most in RVs, lined up waiting to cross the border in Osoyoos, B.C., into Okanogan County.

Though vaccinated Americans have been allowed to enter Canada since August, it wasn’t until Monday that the U.S. matched its neighbors to the north and began allowing travel for any reasons beyond trade and other “essential” purposes.

Though proof of vaccination will be needed for travelers headed both north and south, the U.S. will not require a negative COVID test for entry.

But Canada is still requiring proof of negative test result within the past 72 hours for northbound traffic, even Canadian citizens.

Many Whatcom County businesses are excited about the return of Canadian shoppers, who have been absent for the past 20 months.

Edaleen Dairy, which displayed a sign welcoming “Canadian friends” back saw about a 65% to 70% drop in sales revenue at its Lynden, Sumas and Blaine locations since the border crossing, General Manager Mitch Moorlag said in a news release Monday.

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