By Larry Persily

The Canadian border has been closed for more than a year and, judging from recent news, it’s not likely to reopen in late spring or even early summer.

British Columbia recorded its highest number of daily cases in late March.

For the first time in the pandemic, British Columbia reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases on two consecutive days. The April 2 case count was a record high, surpassed the next day by an even higher count. The previous record was set just three days earlier.

These are not the numbers you want to see if you are arguing that Canada should reopen its border with the United States.

“As the new variants spread, you will see that COVID-19 is killing faster and younger,” Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of a panel of scientists advising Ontario Premier Doug Ford, said April 1, as reported by the Washington Post. “It’s spreading far more quickly than it was before, and we cannot vaccinate quickly enough to break this third wave.”

Adding to Canada’s alarm, public health officials and infectious-disease experts report that patients hospitalized with more severe illnesses are younger than during previous surges, the Post reported.

The culprits? Pandemic fatigue, premature easing of curbs and the spread of more transmissible and dangerous variants of the coronavirus, public health officials in Canada said.

British Columbia announced March 29 that it would shut down indoor dining at bars and restaurants, worship services and indoor group fitness classes for three weeks.

Quebec ordered strict curbs, including the closure of schools, theaters, gyms, hair salons and nonessential businesses for 10 days.

“People essentially have to stay at home, unless they absolutely need to go to work,” Quebec Premier François Legault was quoted in the Post.

On April 3, Ontario closed indoor and outdoor dining and imposed capacity limits on businesses, weddings and funerals for the next four weeks.

The vaccination rate in Canada is not good, and that’s part of the problem. As of April 3, less than 15% of the population had received at least one dose. Alaska was more than double that.

The news out of Canada does not look good for Alaskans, their friends and families, and tourism businesses that were hoping to see the border stations wave people through instead of waving at them to stop and turn around.

In fairness, it’s not just Canadian officials who are worried about cross-border spread of COVID-19. On March 21, the U.S., Mexico and Canada agreed to restrict non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada land borders through April 21.

Maybe the vaccination rate will catch up and defeat the infection rate in our next-door neighbor. Maybe the case counts will drop enough and stay low long enough for officials to consider easing back on border restrictions. 

In the meantime, however, Alaskans should look for vacation destinations on this side of the border and plan to fly over, not drive through, Canada. The pandemic’s hold on life is lessening, but it is by no means over.