BUFFALO, N.Y. — Welcome news for people on both sides of the border came late Tuesday night: the U.S. government will reopen the land border to fully vaccinated Canadians next month.
"I think this border should have been open five months ago because the same criteria applies today as it did then," U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins said on Wednesday.
After months of asking the White House to reopen the border, Congressman Higgins stood in front of the Peace Bridge on Wednesday, announcing fully vaccinated Canadians will be allowed back into the United States for non-essential travel next month. They will have to show proof of vaccination, but they will not be required to get tested in order to visit the United States.
"I think there was a lot of bureaucracy. I don't know that the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were on the same page. I think in communicating aggressively with the White House, at least it forced a reconsideration of the whole issue of opening the border," Higgins said.
To get back into Canada, Canadians will have to show proof of a negative test within 72 hours before going back. That's the same rule that has applied to Americans visiting Canada for non-essential travel since August.
Congressman Higgins says the United States will be working with the Canadian federal government to relax that rule.
"I think we have to make this as simple as possible. This has already been very, very complicated over the past 19 months, the past several months since the Canadian border has been open to Americans. The testing requirement should be dropped," Higgins said.
Additionally, the State Department announced Wednesday that this will apply to fully vaccinated foreign nationals coming into the United States for non-essential travel via Canada and Mexico at land and ferry crossings.
We do not have an exact date yet for the reopening, but Higgins, who says it should have happened months ago, says he wants it to be November 1.
Destination Niagara U.S.A. President John Percy said Canadians spend on average $100 million in retail sales alone in Niagara Falls.
He said this announcement will greatly impact the the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, especially given the holiday season right around the corner.
"A lot of those dollars are spent in that mall and as we are going into the holidays that mall has been waiting with such patience and are really very excited," said Percy. "I haven't spoken to them today, but I'll say they are doing happy dances all throughout that center."