BLINE, Washington. – In the shadow of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the 42-hectare park on the far western edge of the US-Canada demarcation line has become a popular opening in an otherwise closed border, a place where Americans and Canadians can gather to cross the border without permission.
Known as the Peace Arch Park, it has lush green meadows, gardens, and a 67-foot-high white concrete arch erected in 1921. It is often a muddy, sometimes idyllic place. But the epidemic has turned this patch of historically neutral land into a playground for some fundamental public health issues.
People from Canada with a lower incidence of COVID-19 should take the risk of mixing with people from the United States. Masked և remote families should be able to reunite for one day without being quarantined. Who decides?
Recently, on a sunny weekend, couples and groups of up to 15 people sat through a large central lawn and filled about a dozen picnic tables. Some kept their distance by a few feet, some huddled tightly. Some wore masks, some did not. There were sounds of laughter coming from the children in the big playground. And everything was quiet on the eastern edge of the park, where visitors set up dozens of tents, which reportedly facilitate honeymoon visits.
The American park ranger regularly traveled around the area asking groups to stay physically away from each other. Although dozens of surveillance cameras mounted on high poles were constantly monitoring the parking lot, no police were present.
A year ago, Canada closed its land borders to all but a select few, and the park remained closed in late June. Even so, Canadians are free to jump over a small grassy ditch that runs along Britain’s Surrey Avenue, British Columbia, “Washington State side remains open shortly after the outbreak.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, stationed outside every few homes along 0 Avenue, are demanding citizenship as parks leave and then offer to return Canadians to quarantine.
This is very different from the usual immigration crossing, such as the area near the park, where everyone driving to Canada must register for a strict 14-day quarantine.
And many Americans should be in the exempt group and have a negative coronavirus test. Those who claim “family relationships” should be able to prove it to a border official. And even then they have that 14-day quarantine.
Immigration lawyer Len Saunders, who lives in Blaine, Washington, comes to the park every day to see his clients. “For many, it is a lifeline,” he said. “People without a garden were effectively separated from their spouses, fiancés and partners.”
He has two clients in that situation. Canadian Katrina Gurr, 29, and Alexis Gurr, 32, American. They all live on the easy way to the border, met last March. “We just started talking and then we couldn’t stop,” Alexis said.
They got married in July, and today they sometimes speak in unison.
Travel rules are complicated և changeable, easier to get to the US համար Canada air travel, but still scary. The Gurus visited each other for weeks in a row, but spent most of their first year apart as newlyweds. Katrina applied for a green card that would allow her to live and work in the United States, a process she said would take about a year.
At the same time, Katrina spends most of the weekend on the other side of the trench. Alexis brings a small propane tank.
“In the football season, we watch the football game,” said Alexis.
“And we actually sleep a lot,” said Katrina, ending her sentence.
For the Widmer family, the Peace Arch Park was a place of reunion. Father Bill and his mother, Dennis, have traveled there several times over the past few months, seven miles south of their home, to see their son Peter, his wife, and their child, who live north of the park. The visits were especially frequent after Bill was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer in December.
But what became of Billy’s last visit to the park almost failed. The rules in Canada had changed. The Mounties warned Peter that in order to return to Canada, he needed to show his real passport, not just a photo of his phone. It would take an hour and a half to complete the round trip. His father was already exhausted from the trip, իզ Denise needed to return the specialized medical car known as the rented office he had rented to transport him there.
Dennis begged Munti to give it to him. For her, it all came down to the fact that her husband had the opportunity to have the final meeting, safe because he was outside, everyone was physically involved. “This is not tourism,” he later said. “They are families.”
In the end, the Mounties allowed Peter to embrace him briefly,, Peter’s 3-year-old child sat on his grandfather’s knees for the last time.
Bill died at home 12 days later, on March 11, after his son made his last official visit due to his 14-day strict quarantine return.
Most of the park reunions are happier. Immigration lawyer Sunders said he had seen many weddings.
Some Canadians who live on or off Avenue 0 are opposed to gatherings. John von Cageorge, a Canadian, is primarily concerned with security issues, such as the transfer of weapons or drugs to humans. He also said that “people should follow public health guidelines, they do not do it in the park.”
Fear of COVID-19 is so prevalent in Canada that “COVID embarrassment” – the spread of social media – the threat of COVID-positive people – has become rampant, according to The New York Times. And Americans are often blamed. “There is a big stigma in Canada that you are not the best,” said Katrina Gurr.
Deaths from COVID-19 infections are significantly higher in the United States. More than 92,000 cases per million people than Canada’s 26,000 million on Wednesday. But whether SARS-CoV-2 is spreading outside or in the Peace Arch Park tents is anyone’s guess. After the issue was raised by the Canadian media in February, the Prime Minister of British Columbia replied that his chief health official had said that there could be no outbreaks in the park.
The Public Health Agency of Canada attributes only 0.3% of COVID cases in March to international travel. But that estimate is likely to be low, say Kelly Lynn-Marie Nicole, global health policy expert at Simon Fraser University. In an essay on the online news website Con Talk, they note that only air travelers are controlled. This leaves out people in the Peace Arch Park և necessary workers such as trucks և health workers who regularly cross the border by car.
“Major travelers remain untested, so we can not know what the risks are,” Lee wrote.
In the absence of clear information about the spread, the brawl around the park remains political. Members of Canada’s two Liberal parties in the state legislature have pressured the Prime Minister of British Columbia, a member of the New Democratic Party, to ask Governor Aye Insley to close the US side. But the prime minister rejected them, saying that international borders were a matter for the Ottawa federal government.
Inslee spokesman Mike Faulk said Washington was discouraged from gathering, but did not say what action was expected. Last October, Prime Minister Just Astin Trudeau said closing the border would take “as long as we feel they have to.”
The Canadian side of the arch says: “Brothers who live together in unity.” So far, so good in the park, but not along the 4,000-mile[4,000 m]border between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Saunders, Gurrs, Zuidmeers և Many other border observers do not expect any immediate changes.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that publishes in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and surveys, the KHN is one of the three main operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health care information to the country.