Gov. Jay Inslee wants the U.S.-Canada border to reopen soon. The two nations should grant his wish.
Inslee put his request in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He urged them to work with their Canadian counterparts “to find innovative ways to reopen the border consistent with public health guidance.”
It’s a close call whether the two countries are ready to return to pre-pandemic border crossing levels. Right now, only essential travel is allowed.
Washington ranks in the top 10 states for vaccination levels, and Seattle ranks first among all U.S. cities to have 70 percent of people over 12 fully vaccinated. About half of residents statewide are fully vaccinated. The state is doing so well that Inslee expects to reopen the economy by the end of the month.
Things are different to the north. In the Canadian province of British Columbia, about two-thirds of residents have at least one vaccine shot, but fewer than 10% are fully vaccinated. One shot helps, but a second shot is critical to developing robust immunity to COVID-19. The Canadian national rates are similar.
The disparity suggests a gradual reopening of the border might be safer. Inslee acknowledged as much in his letter, proposing that groups with the most pressing need be given priority access to the border.
Crucially, he also encouraged immigration services from both countries to incorporate voluntary vaccine reporting. Unvaccinated travelers might not be allowed through at first or might have to quarantine, but their choice not to receive the shots has consequences.
How much pull Inslee has in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, the capital of Canada remains to be seen. He certainly timed his letter well to claim some credit for change. Canada’s current border closing order expires on June 22. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under increasing pressure to ease restrictions. For example, Canadian NHL teams recently received permission to travel to the United States for the playoffs.
In normal times, Washington and British Columbia have close ties. People cross the border to shop, visit, and see families and friends. It’s time to begin letting them resume those trips.