Canada opened its border, pandemic may be scaring Americans away

After being closed to all but essential travel for more than a year, Canada opened its border to Americans just after midnight Monday morning.

But in Windsor, it seemed few were crossing it.

There was one family who had been separated from loved ones for multiple months and eagerly waited in Detroit’s duty-free shop as the border opened so they could be reunited.

It’s not yet clear when the U.S. will reopen to Canadian tourists. Last month, the U.S. extended travel restrictions for nonessential travel from Canada and Mexico through Aug. 21.

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents are cleared to enter Canada.

For the most part, Windsor, on the other side of the river from Detroit, was quiet — “pretty dead” was more like it, one entrepreneur pointed out, as even established restaurants and shops struggled to attract patrons.

To make things worse, COVID-19 cases have recently been on the rise.

“Everybody is a little cautious,” said Zoran Konjicija, a server at the Patio Lounge eatery. “I think it’s probably going to take a few days or maybe even a couple weeks before it gets busy.”

Zoran Konjicija, a server at the Patio Lounge eatery, looks outside shortly after opening on Aug. 9, 2021, the first full day of the border re-opening after it had been closed down due to the pandemic.He is hoping the border opening brings back some of the business they lost to the closure and the pandemic, saying, "I think it's probably going to take a few days or maybe even a couple weeks before it gets busy."

Monday, there were no hordes of American tourists at the gates.

“I still don’t know if people want to travel,” said Jim Arbour, the owner of Lefty’s Bar. “I mean, I don’t think it’s going to be an instant fix. It’s going to take a lot for people to come over if they don’t want to go through all the issues.”

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Wait times at the Blue Water and Ambassador bridges had gone from about 10 minutes hours earlier to 30 minutes or more, and then dwindled by noon to no delay and 10 minutes, with no wait at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, according to Canadian officials.

Cars line-up to cross the border from Detroit into Windsor on Aug. 9, 2021, the first full day of the border re-opening after it had been closed down due to the pandemic.

Perhaps there were more travelers at border crossings in other states — Maine, New York and Minnesota — where wait times early Monday were 4 hours, 3 hours and 7 hours, respectively.

Some shopkeepers and hoteliers in Windsor seemed optimistic that customers would eventually return.

A clerk at the empty lobby of the Four Points by Sheraton Windsor Downtown said the border opening would eventually bring back business. But, she added, that could take some time.