COVID-19 live updates: All lanes open at Canada U.S. land border: Pandemic struggles outlined in child and youth advocate annual report

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8:33 a.m.

All lanes open Monday at Canada U.S land border, but PCR test still a drag on travel

The Canadian Press

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A U.S. and a Canadian flag flutter at the Canada-United States border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge, which remains closed to non-essential traffic to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Lansdowne, Ont., September 28, 2020.
A U.S. and a Canadian flag flutter at the Canada-United States border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge, which remains closed to non-essential traffic to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Lansdowne, Ont., September 28, 2020. Photo by Lars Hagberg /Reuters

The southbound lanes on the road to North America’s post-pandemic recovery will finally reopen Monday as the United States ends nearly 20 months of controversial COVID-19 exile and allows fully vaccinated travellers to cross the Canada-U.S. land border.

As of midnight, non-essential traffic will resume moving in both directions for the first time since March 2020, when both countries imposed sweeping but selective restrictions in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus — the first widespread border closure since the 9/11 terrorist attacks 20 years ago.

After nearly two years, however, the excitement isn’t exactly palpable.

“We’re on the other side of this, hopefully, but if the border were to ever close again, they really need to realize that families are essential,” said Kim Patchett, who lives with her husband Barry in Saugeen Shores, Ont., west of Owen Sound on the shores of Lake Huron.

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Sunday

‘We’re hoping for better things’: Border reopening a potential boon to Alberta village

Jason Herring, Calgary

File photo: Road that runs along the international border between Montana and Alberta. Sweetgrass, Montana, USA on the left and Coutts, Alberta, Canada on Friday March 20, 2020.
File photo: Road that runs along the international border between Montana and Alberta. Sweetgrass, Montana, USA on the left and Coutts, Alberta, Canada on Friday March 20, 2020. Photo by Mike Drew/Postmedia

For the first time in 597 days, fully vaccinated Canadians could drive into the United States for non-essential travel starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

That could mean a boon for business at the village on the Canadian side of the busiest border crossing in Alberta, one restaurateur said.

“When you’re on the border, part of your business comes from the border traffic, for sure,” said Carolyn Dangerfield, who runs the Hills of Home Café alongside her husband, Keith.

“Ours has been not terrible, but we’re hoping for better things when it opens.”

Coutts is best known for its location at the end of Highway 4, on the border with Montana, with its traffic made up almost entirely of those making their way across the 24-7 port of entry.

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And though commercial traffic has continued along the important trade route, Statistics Canada data show a significant decline in vehicles passing through the Coutts border crossing due to pandemic restrictions.

Between March 2019 and February 2020, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 6,500 vehicles entered Canada on average each week at Coutts. That dropped to about 3,600 entries to Canada the following year, a 45 per cent decrease. Coutts made up more than two-thirds of border crossings to Alberta in 2019.

Though Canada opened its borders to fully vaccinated Americans in early August, travellers from the United States make up less than a quarter of land crossings at Coutts, meaning Monday’s reopening is expected to bring a greater surge in traffic.

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Dangerfield said her business was in “pretty bad shape” towards the start of the pandemic when it was forced to close due to public health measures, but saw a small rebound following that. Only a small percentage of those heading into the States stop in Coutts, she said, but added “it’s always been enough to keep us going.”

Enthusiasm for the border reopening had some Alberta snowbirds camped in the town of Milk River, 18 kilometres north of Coutts, eagerly awaiting the chance to escape in their motorhomes to warmer climes.

Those entering the U.S. will be asked to provide a verbal attestation that they are vaccinated, but must be able to provide proof of vaccination upon request, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Proof of a negative test is not required.

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The Canada Border Services Agency issued an advisory in advance of the border opening, reminding travellers to ensure they are eligible to re-enter Canada and have proof of vaccination to facilitate their return. They also must complete a molecular COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before arriving back in Canada, with rapid antigen testing not accepted; if Canadians are returning within 72 hours of leaving Canada, they can take that test before leaving the country.

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Sunday

’31 per cent increase in injuries, deaths:’ child and youth advocate annual report outlines struggles during COVID-19

Anna Junker

Office of The Child and Youth Advocate’s Del Graff.
Office of The Child and Youth Advocate’s Del Graff. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia, file

The number of notifications for serious injuries or deaths of young people increased by 31 per cent compared to last year, the latest annual report from Alberta’s child and youth advocate states.

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The annual report released last week by Del Graff shows there were 81 notifications received to the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, regarding serious injuries or deaths of young people — that compares to 62 last year, marking the 31 per cent increase.

The annual report provides a summary of the OCYA’s major activities over the last year and looks ahead to how the office plans to strengthen services and advance the rights, interests, and viewpoints of young people. This year, there was a focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected young people.

“Alberta’s children and youth have shown great courage and adaptability through another challenging year,” said Graff.

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“Their resilience and hope, to strive for better, even in the midst of a global pandemic is evident. I also want to acknowledge our staff and others who worked hard to provide advocacy in changing times, adapting services so that we could continue to stand up for young people.”

Of the 81 notifications of serious injury or death, four were closed with a preliminary investigation, nine reviews were completed, 60 are in progress and eight are on hold.

As well, as of April 1, 2020, a total of 51 reviews were carried over from 2019–2020.

Of those, 19 were closed with a preliminary investigation, 14 reviews are completed, while 18 are still in progress.

A total of 5,960 young people were served by the OCYA over the last year and 2,724 young people received advocacy services, 57 per cent of whom were Indigenous.

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The report states the number of notifications of systemic reviews was 60 compared to 42 in the previous year, which signals an increase in the number of cases involving systemic issues.

“Of the notifications we received during 2020–2021, one-third of the young people involved had their services and supports disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions,” the report states.

“We found that at times, child-serving systems in Alberta struggled to adjust their services to effectively meet the needs of these young people amidst the pandemic restrictions.”

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Sunday

‘Embedded in the abstract world:’ 13 Alberta establishments hit with suspensions, closure orders for flouting COVID-19 rules

Anna Junker

Alberta Health Services opened a drop-in first dose COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Edmonton Expo Centre, Wednesday June 9, 2021.
Alberta Health Services opened a drop-in first dose COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Edmonton Expo Centre, Wednesday June 9, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Thirteen establishments across Alberta have received 18 suspensions or closure orders for not complying with the province’s COVID-19 Restrictions Exemption Program must recognize they are “not fighting for a common good,” stresses an Edmonton health law and policy expert.

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According to Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) list of enforcement orders , one establishment in the Edmonton Zone, nine in the North Zone, and three in the Calgary Zone have been issued food permit suspensions or closure orders for not screening patrons for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours.

In the permit suspensions or closure orders, establishments were also offering patrons indoor dining when they should not and in some instances, staff were not wearing masks.

There have been no enforcement orders in the Central or South zones.

Those not adhering to the public health orders are likely listening to misinformation on two fronts, said Timothy Caulfield, a University of Alberta professor and Canada research chair in health law and policy.

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“All of that, I think, is fuelling this, let’s call it the corporate hesitancy or the hesitancy, of some of these businesses,” Caulfield said.

There’s also misinformation involving the law and rights, with some businesses suggesting they have a right to flout the vaccine passport or that the passport infringes on their rights.

“What’s interesting about that is this rights language has received a lot of attention. I think it’s very seductive, because it makes their position seem righteous and seem brave, that they’re fighting for some higher good,” Caulfield said.

“I think that’s a really damaging form of misinformation because number one, they’re not fighting for higher good. On the contrary, they’re hurting their community and number two, they’re misrepresenting the nature of the right.”

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Being able to change someone’s mind on the issue would be difficult, Caulfield said, but that doesn’t mean education shouldn’t be tried.

“Individuals are jeopardizing their business, their income, in order to support a narrative that isn’t supported by the science or legal norms,” he said. “It demonstrates the degree to which they are embedded in the abstract world.”

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Letter of the day

Incoming Brian Jean looms large over Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
Incoming Brian Jean looms large over Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

Anti-vaxxers costly for health care

Re. “Bashing the unvaccinated is fashionable, but comes at a cost,” David Staples, Nov. 5

In his ongoing defence of the anti-vaxxers, David Staples fails to mention another major reason for enforcing a vaccine mandate — the cost to the taxpayer. Health care in Canada is expected to cost around $308 billion for 2021, an average of more than $8,000 per citizen. The cost for a hospital bed is about $1,000 per day, $10,000 if you are in ICU.

Those who are in a Canadian hospital are mostly, circa 90 per cent, the unvaccinated; and most of these are hardcore anti-vaxxers who voted for the Conservative or PPC parties. I wonder how many of the anti-vaxxers voted for them because they felt they do a better job of not squandering the taxpayers’ dollar?

David Norman, Edmonton

Read more letters to the editor

Letters Welcome

We invite you to write letters to the editor. A maximum of 150 words is preferred. Letters must carry a first and last name, or two initials and a last name, and include an address and daytime telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. We don’t publish letters addressed to others or sent to other publications. Email: letters@edmontonjournal.com

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Saturday

‘It’s going to be crazy’: Snowbirds at campground eager for U.S. border reopening

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

The road that runs along the border between Sweetgrass, Montana, to the left and Coutts, Alberta, to the right.
The road that runs along the border between Sweetgrass, Montana, to the left and Coutts, Alberta, to the right. Photo by Mike Drew/Postmedia/File

MILK RIVER — Nearly two years of being caged in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic has some snowbirds anxiously waiting in their motorhomes and trailers in southern Alberta.

The Eight Flags Campground in the small windswept town of Milk River, 18 kilometres from the Canada-United States border crossing at Coutts, is full of shiny, large RVs.

It’s in anticipation of land and sea border crossings reopening Monday for fully vaccinated Canadians. Such crossings were closed to non-essential travel at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

“All of a sudden someone said the border’s opening and it just went nuts here,” said Helen Runka, who operates the campground.

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“They said they’ve been waiting to go back to the U.S. for two years and they’re not going to miss out.”

The campground, which has 35 sites, has twice the number of bookings for this weekend. Some overflowparking is being offered near a baseball diamond in the town.

Saturday

Albertans with disabilities grapple with isolation during pandemic

Jason Herring, Calgary

Friday

Active cases continue to drop in Alberta; 466 new cases

Lauren Boothby

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The coronavirus COVID-19.
The coronavirus COVID-19. Photo by Maksim Tkachenko /Getty Images

Active case of COVID-19 continue to drop province-wide as the number of people hospitalized for the disease also slowly decline.

By Friday, there were 6,386 active cases in Alberta, down 129 from the day previous. The province reported 466 new cases on Friday. Hospitalizations also continue declining but not as quickly — 660 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in Alberta’s hospitals with 141 in ICU.

Since Oct. 1, active cases have fallen by about 68 per cent, and the number of COVID-19 patients treated in Alberta’s hospitals is nearly 40 per cent lower.

At the height of the fourth wave, active cases soared to 21,194 on Sept. 26. Hospitalizations peaked the next day at 1,132 with 261 in ICU, and these intensive care numbers reached the maximum, 267 patients, on Sept. 28.

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