Washington, DC — Lawmakers from states that share a border with Canada are urging President Donald Trump to preserve the flow of essential goods and services between the two countries, even if the global pandemic forces even more stringent quarantines and travel restrictions in the United States.
New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, released a letter Monday urging the White House to bear in mind the importance of bilateral travel to businesses, families and communities located near the Canada-U.S. border.
“Many businesses in our states, including hospitals and medical equipment providers, depend upon travel across the northern border for essential supplies and personnel,” the letter reads.
“In attempting to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, we must ensure that any new travel restrictions do not handicap these industries and their ability to respond to outbreaks quickly and effectively. Federal agencies and the Coronavirus Task Force will need to co-ordinate closely to ensure the necessary exemptions are made to travel restrictions.”
The letter was co-signed by 18 other border-state lawmakers, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.
It also calls on Trump to provide “the appropriate exemptions to any domestic quarantines mandated by federal, state or local officials to ensure public health and safety.”
While protecting public health is paramount, the letter continues, “it is critical that businesses Americans rely on to provide medical supplies and other essential goods do not see their supply chains and workforce compromised by restrictions on travel domestically and across the U.S. border.”
Canada and the United States put a mutual ban in place early Saturday prohibiting casual, non-essential travel between the two countries as part of a joint effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Travel for work or school is still permitted, as are temporary foreign workers and long-haul truckers carrying shipments between the two countries.
But images from across the United States and Canada of people flouting public pleas to stay home and avoid congregating in large groups are fuelling fear that more stringent crackdowns on personal mobility could soon be coming.
“Enough is enough. Go home and stay home,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday. “This is what we all need to be doing and we’re going to make sure it happens.”
Businesses that depend on being able to cross the border are keeping a close eye on the restrictions to make sure that essential travel doesn’t get interrupted.
Canadians who believe they are engaged in essential travel but encounter difficulties getting across the Canada-U.S. border can call for help using a new hotline established by the Canada Border Services Agency, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference in Ottawa.
“CBSA has very swiftly set up a hotline and a website that people can use if they are at the border and they feel they are engaged in essential crossing of the border and need some help getting across,” Freeland said.
“Canadians doing essential work who need to cross the border, please use that hotline to let us know if you are having difficulties.”
The agency’s Border Information Service, which usually operates under limited hours and provides recorded advice, is now available 24 hours a day and staffed by actual service agents. It can be reached at 1-800-461-9999.