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Canada Reopens To Travelers, But With U.S. Still Closed, Border Town Roads, Businesses Remain Quiet

A photo of a white sign with blue writing that reads return to Canada against a grey sky and powerlines in the background
Elodie Reed
On Monday, Canada reopened its borders to nonessential travel for Americans who are fully vaccinated and who have recently tested negative for COVID-19. The U.S. borders with both Canada and Mexico remain closed until at least Aug. 21.

After 17 months of being closed to all but essential travelers, today marked the first day Americans could once again drive into Canada.

Visitors must show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours.

In the Franklin County border town of Richford, population 1,600, roads remained fairly quiet Monday.

A photo of a four-way intersection with a red blinking stoplight and two people walking on a sidewalk
Elodie Reed
Richford's sole traffic light blinks over nearly-empty streets on Monday, Aug. 9, the day the Canadian border opened for nonessential travel.

At Wetherby's Quick Stop, a convenience store and gas station at the center of town, a few people stopped in who hadn't been there since the beginning of the pandemic, happy to be back.

Co-owners John and Mary Wetherby say about half their business used to come from Canadian customers. When the border initially closed in March 2020 due to the spread of the coronavirus, and those customers could no longer buy milk and gas at Wetherby's, it had "a big impact."

Two images side by side, one of a couple behind a convenience store counter, another of the outside of a convenience store with red, yellow and blue awnings
Elodie Reed
Mary and John Wetherby run a convenience store and gas station in the center of Richford. They say usually about half their business comes from Canadian customers, but since the pandemic began, the local community has helped get them through.

"It was very nerve-wracking," Mary said. "But ... the community has maintained us very well, we're very fortunate."

The U.S. border isn't scheduled to reopen to Canadian travelers until at least Aug. 21. That'll be three days after Scott Boyce plans to open a new downtown restaurant, Thirsty Burger.

Two images side by side, one of a person in a doorway wearing jeans, a tape measure and a white shirt, another of a sign reading opening August 18th
Elodie Reed
Scott Boyce plans to open the Thirsty Burger restaurant in Richford on Aug. 18. The U.S. border will be closed to Canadian travelers until at least Aug. 21.

"We held off here, we wanted to start this project two years ago, and not knowing what the future was going to bring," Boyce said. "I guess we didn't realize how much traffic that we actually got until it's gone."

Boyce said the Richford community needs the U.S. border reopened just as badly as the Canadian border.

A photo of green hills leading into blue mountains with small houses and roads in the distance
Elodie Reed
The Franklin County town of Richford, population 1,600, lies along the border with Canada.

Vermont's Congressional delegation and Gov. Phil Scott have lobbied the Biden administration to allow nonessential travel between Canada and the U.S. once again.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet Elodie Reed @elodie_reed and Connor Cyrus @VPR_Connor.

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