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Unfounded fear of U.S. limits productive solutions | Laurelly Dale

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 @ 9:25 AM | By Laurelly Dale


Laurelly Dale %>
Laurelly Dale
Most of us will never forget that distinct feeling of living life through the lens of a zombie apocalypse in the week of March 11. One major blow after another. Pandemic declared. Hockey is cancelled (!). Beloved Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have COVID-19.

March break was extended. Then Trudeau closed the Canadian border.

Fast forward more than seven months later. Few people — not even Bill Gates himself — would have predicted that our borders would still be closed. Our southern neighbours have become the Boo Radley of this pandemic. It is unpopular to express an opinion other than stay out of Canada! At the risk of being escorted out of my birth nation on the back of a moose — there are alternatives that should be considered. 

The federal government continues to rubber stamp the border closure each month. This is a mistake. There are feasible options being ignored. To be abundantly clear — this is not a proposed resolution that would open up a floodgate of Covidiots waiting at the U.S./Canada border for entry. Further, these ideas are not intended to minimize the severity of the pandemic. 

Many Canadians fear the situation in the U.S. It’s understandable as their televisions are bombarded with images of millennials on the beach and news of President Trump’s infection. It’s easy to label the U.S. as terrifying and build our own northern wall to protect Canadians. It’s tougher to examine our own mistakes and possibly look at success stories in the U.S.

San Francisco has the lowest COVID-19 death rate of any city in the U.S. Had the rest of the country followed their example, there would have been a fraction of the casualties. Their success is derived from their experience with AIDS which helped shape their rapid response.

As of Oct. 26, there were 37 new COVID-19 cases compared to British Columbia’s 817. I spent time in San Francisco this summer with family. Everyone unanimously got the memo in SF. Masks are worn everywhere — even outside. No indoor dining and limited school reopenings. Months on end of lockdowns. At all times I felt safe. The U.S. is not the boogeyman hiding under the bed waiting to eat its northern neighbour. 

Currently, anyone entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days. Exceptions apply to essential workers. Some of those falling within that category have the choice to either: quarantine for 14 days or get a COVID-19 test. Testing is swiftly evolving. Rapid COVID-19 tests were introduced in Canada last week, providing results in 13 minutes instead of two days.

Not everyone travelling to Canada is an essential worker. Many do not fall within the narrow “family” category carved out by Trudeau in June to allow cross-border travel into Canada.

Even those who do meet the definition of family are unable to travel to Canada to visit their spouse/child/relative because they are required to quarantine. It is simply not feasible for all wishing to see their loved ones to firstly: travel by air; and second: quarantine in a hotel or other residence in isolation for 14 days. 

It is not groundbreaking to suggest that an exception should be created to allow travel into Canada if they isolate for 14 days or get COVID-19 testing within the appropriate time.

While I would enjoy taking credit for this idea, it appears that Hawaii was one of the first to offer this option. As of Oct. 26 there were 38 new COVID-19 cases in the state of Hawaii. In Ontario there are currently 827. 

Alberta is the first province to propose an alternative approach. Effective Nov. 2 a pilot project will launch at the Coutts land border crossing and the Calgary International Airport. Travellers entering Alberta will have the option of either undergoing a COVID-19 test or quarantining for 14 days. Generally, it takes a couple of days after potential exposure to the virus to determine if you’ve been infected. Under this pilot it would be possible to shorten the quarantine from 14 days to 48 hours depending on access to rapid COVID-19 testing.

This would make it practicable for those who have family in Canada to safely minimize separation. 

Further, this pilot project opens solutions to repairing the damage done to the Canadian economy. One of the hardest hit industries is tourism and travel. As a result of the pandemic it is estimated that spending this year will drop from $105 billion to $68 billion. This figure will drop to $42 billion the following year.

A balance must be struck. We possess more information than we did in March. Time to revisit overly restrictive measures while considering reuniting families and resuming economic viability within this new normal. These are not perfect solutions. We are only on the first floor of this pandemic house of horrors. The exit will appear when there’s a perfect vaccine administered worldwide. 

Laurelly Dale is a criminal defence lawyer with Dale Law. Contact her at ldale@dalelegalfirm.com.

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