U.S.-Canadian border could open as soon as mid-August

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that fully vaccinated U.S. travelers could be allowed to cross the Canadian border as early as mid-August.

On July 15, the prime minister’s office released a summary of Trudeau’s 33rd call with Canadian premiers regarding the country’s COVID-19 response. In it, Trudeau is quoted as saying, “If our current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue, Canada would be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.” According to the summary, Trudeau noted the ongoing discussions with the U.S. on reopening plans and indicated that “we could expect to start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel.”

Canadian first ministers expressed their support of reopening plans and agreed on the importance of ensuring clarity and predictability as initial steps are taken. The prime minister indicated that ministers would share more details on the plans early next week. The premiers also discussed the importance of a proof of vaccination credential and prioritizing work to implement a system that would enable Canadians to travel internationally with confidence, according to the summary.

In June, Canadian and U.S. governments opted to keep the northern border closed to all non-essential travel, leading to an outcry from Americans and Canadians on both sides of the border.

Hours after the latest border closure extension, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer spoke with Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman, urging new guidelines for essential travelers — which includes individuals who have been vaccinated who have family, property, educational, commercial or medical interests in Canada. Schumer said that since March 2020, American and Canadian stakeholders on both sides of the border have grown frustrated with “the endless cycle of month-by-month closure extensions and the lack of transparency on which they’re decided.”

New York state in June achieved its goal of at least 70 percent of all residents receiving one vaccine, and the European Union declared Americans as safe to travel to and from as tourists. The U.S. also has sent 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Canada, further enabling its northern neighbor to up its own vaccination percentage.

“Once I heard the border closure would be extended yet again for another long 30 days, I immediately called the Canadian ambassador to see what we can do, on both sides, to finally reopen the border and truly get Upstate New York on the road to recovery,” Schumer said in a statement last week. “I explained to Ambassador Hillman how mindboggling it is that many New Yorkers are free to travel to Europe now, but even those fully vaccinated can’t even drive a few miles north to Canada to their homes, businesses, stores, families and properties. I urged her to coordinate with me and other U.S. officials ASAP to come up with a plan – based on science, data and common sense – that will allow for safe and steady border travel and reunite families and friends and jumpstart New York’s local economies. I won’t rest until the northern border is safely and effectively opened for all vaccinated New Yorkers.”

Trudeau in June said that as of 11:59 p.m. on July 5, there would be some exemptions for Canadians re-entering the country, who also meet specific conditions for fully vaccinated travelers. But the list of requirements to re-enter the country is lengthy and may discourage Canadian travelers from visiting the U.S.

Those requirements include:
• Pre-registration for a COVID-19 test upon arrival at the border;
• Within 72 hours prior to arrival at the border, have a negative COVID-19 test;
• Document vaccination history, 14-day travel plan and contact and travel information on ArriveCAN website;
• At the border, provide vaccination documentation, as well as receipt from ArriveCan;
• Receive COVID-19 test at the border, unless tests are unavailable, in which case individuals will be provided with a home test they must use and submit when they arrive at their destination.

If each of the requirements is met, and the individual does not test positive, he or she will be exempt from the mandatory 14-day quarantine and hotel stay previously required.

Both sides of the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls were full of protests in the days leading up to the announcement and afterward. Advocates for the border opening, many of whom have loved ones they have not seen in more than a year, were able to cross to the halfway point of the bridge but were not allowed to go any further.

Officials who are watching the border situation closely have said that it is possible that travel may resume when the July 21 deadline arrives. Trudeau had previously said he would not open the border until at least 75 percent of Canadians were vaccinated. In Thursday’s summary, the prime minister noted that Canada continues to lead G20 countries in vaccination rates with roughly 80 percent of eligible Canadians vaccinated with their first dose and more than 50 percent of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated.

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Homebound individuals to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Homebound individuals in the nine-county Finger Lakes Region will now have the ability to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Monroe County, the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub, Goodwill of the Finger Lakes and other local partners have finalized plans to bring access to the COVID-19 vaccine to the roughly 1,000 homebound individuals in the region.

“Providing equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine has been our priority since our vaccination efforts began in December. We’ve heard from medical professionals, caregivers and homebound individuals about the importance of bringing the vaccine to this population of residents,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “This program is designed from the perspective of the homebound patients and their caregivers, utilizing the COVID-19 vaccine hotline to support homebound residents and give them a point of contact to request their COVID-19 vaccine. Partnering with Emergency Medical Service agencies in our community is a win-win, with their unique perspective and relationship to people in the communities they serve.”

Last week, the partners launched a program to identify, offer and administer vaccines to homebound individuals and their caregivers. Members of the planning group to accomplish the task included Lifespan, Finger Lakes Performing Provider System, emergency medical agencies from a number of local health care systems and organizations and input from the Monroe County Medical Society and others who care for the homebound.

“We are getting great responses from the provider community, yet we want to be sure no one is left behind, so if you know of anybody who is homebound, please call and let us know. We don’t want anyone to be left behind,” said Nana Bennett, director of the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub.

The Monroe County COVID-19 Hotline — staffed by Goodwill of the Finger Lakes — is creating a referral list for those who do not have a computer or internet, and need telephone assistance to get the vaccine to individuals who are homebound.

Individuals can call the Monroe County COVID-19 hotline at (585) 753-5555.

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Excellus BCBS offers educational COVID-19 vaccine website

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is working to help the community become vaccine ready during National Minority Health Month.

Excellus BCBS has created a dedicated COVID-19 website that offers up-to-the-minute information on what individuals need to know such as how to schedule an appointment, “Ask the Expert” videos, what to expect after you get the vaccine, benefits and coverage and more.

The health plan has also:

• created COVID-19 educational materials and resources that are available in Spanish and English;
• is calling customers to remind them of their second vaccine dose appointment; and
• is offering community-based educational roadshows to educate the public on why getting the COVID-19 vaccine is imperative.

This year’s National Minority Health Month is focusing on the need for vulnerable communities to get vaccine ready as more vaccines become available, and is using the hashtag #VaccineReady to bring attention to the issue.

“We’re specifically encouraging our Black and Brown communities who are eligible to get the facts and to register for a COVID-19 appointment as soon as they can to help reduce the spread of the virus,” said Lisa Harris, vice president of medical affairs with Excellus BCBS.

The organization is advising everyone to get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines, share accurate vaccine information with others, get vaccinated when you have the opportunity and practice COVID-19 safety measures.

“The main thing to remember is that all three of the COVID-19 vaccines are among the most effective vaccines in history. The best choice for you is whichever vaccine you have access to first,” Harris said. “We ask that you share this information with friends, loved ones and neighbors so everyone has the facts about the COVID-19 vaccines and understands the importance of getting vaccinated.”

National Minority Health Month is presented each April by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

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West Nile reports prompt call for vaccinating horses

The state Department of Agriculture has confirmed four cases of equine infection with West Nile Virus, including one in Livingston County, and so is urging horse owners to vaccinate their animals.

“This is the time of year when the risk of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases goes up significantly,” Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said in a written statement. “Taking simple, proactive steps to protect yourself and your animals can be extremely effective in reducing the chance of getting ill.”

The other reports of infections in horses were in Steuben, Suffolk and Cattaraugus counties.

Ball asked horse owners to have their animals seen by a veterinarian if they exhibit symptoms of infection, which include reduced appetite, depressed demeanor, skin and muscle twitching, sensitivity to touch and noise, drowsiness, weakness, unsteady gait and loss of control of body movements or the ability to rise.

Animals with symptoms should also be reported to the local health department and NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The state also suggested taking mosquito control measures, such as removing supplies of standing water, and keeping horses sheltered during early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.

Twelve case of West Nile virus have also been reported in New York in humans, for whom there is no vaccine. The virus starts in birds and is transmitted to other species by way of mosquito bite. Humans and horses are most likely to develop symptoms, which can be flu-like or neurological.

“The most effective way to reduce the spread of West Nile Virus in our state is for all New Yorkers to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their animals from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Howard A. Zucker, commissioner of the NYS Department of Health. Precautions for avoiding the mosquito-borne virus including using insect repellants, installing screens on windows and doors, eliminating debris and vegetation near ponds, removing standing water, and keeping pools and hot tubs both clean and chlorinated.

People can take precautions by using repellents and larvicides, eliminating standing water, installing window and door screens, removing debris and vegetation near ponds and keeping pools and hot tubs clean and chlorinated.

According to the Vermont Beef Producers Association, in places where West Nile virus is prevalent, it has sometimes been found in cattle, but the cattle apparently are not much affected as they develop an immune response. Nevertheless, the organization said cattle owners should take note of any unusual neurological behaviors that arise and contact a vet.

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