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‘We welcome Canadian citizens’ Chippewa County health official says ahead of border reopening

No mask mandate in place, bars and restaurants don’t require proof of vaccination
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Canadians visiting Sault Michigan when the Canada-U.S. border reopens to non essential travel Monday will not find anywhere near as many COVID-related regulations as there are on this side of the border.

As reported earlier, Canadians will need to take a COVID test and upload their test information through ArriveCAN (App or website) within 72 hours before returning to Canada from a stateside trip.

For short trips that are less than 72 hours, Canadian citizens are allowed to take their pre-entry molecular test before they leave Canada.

If the test is more than 72 hours old when they re-enter Canada, they will be required to get a new pre-entry molecular test in the United States.

Once in the States, some might find it liberating to circulate (in many places) without a mask.

“We don’t have restrictions on this side. There are no gathering restrictions, there are no masking restrictions. People are obviously free to wear their masks (if they wish). Some places may require masks and that is the businesses’ requirements. We don’t impose that. The businesses have the right to make their own decisions, but there is no county-wide mask mandate or state-wide gathering orders,” said Lana Steinhaus, Chippewa County Health Department deputy health officer and public information officer.

“It’s pretty much business as usual.”

“All of our businesses are looking forward to having Canadian citizens return and being able to come over. We’re looking forward to that, but it’s not easy. It’s not as open as it used to be (for Canadians returning home),” Steinhaus said.

As far as Sault Michigan restaurants and bars are concerned, no proof of being fully vaccinated is required for entry.

There is no proof of vaccine needed at bars and restaurants in Michigan as in Ontario, though Michigan residents carry a vaccine card affirming they have been vaccinated, which type of vaccine they received and where they received it. 

“It’s pretty open. They (bars and restaurants) do not require proof of vaccination. They do not require masking unless they have it posted, but there is no (official public health) requirement,” Steinhaus said.

In Sault Ontario, COVID cases have spiked in recent days and weeks, including outbreaks at some schools.

With that in mind, are Chippewa County Health Department officials nervous about Canadians visiting? 

“No, not at all,” Steinhaus said.

“We encourage people, if you’re gathering, especially in smaller places, to practice some social distancing. It is also flu season on top of COVID. I know that we have lots of colds in the area. But to say we’re nervous, expecting to see a spike, no we’re not. I think that you will probably have a few more cases but not because of Canadian citizens coming over at all. It’s just a matter of it being that time of the year, where people are gathering inside more, it’s just bound to happen.”

With no official mask mandate in place, Steinhaus said Sault Michigan residents are not voluntarily wearing masks in great numbers.

“I would say it’s half and half. As we’re getting more towards the season of common colds and flu, I’ve seen people starting to wear them more.”

For Saultites returning to Canada from the U.S., Sault Michigan’s Meijer pharmacy is offering Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAAT), which are approved by the Canadian government (and free for now at least), with test results available in approximately 45 minutes and emailed to the customer.

Steinhaus said, in addition to Meijer, several locations in Sault Michigan offer COVID tests for Canadian visitors returning to Canada, including War Memorial Hospital, Sault Tribe Health Center, Lake Superior State University and Walgreens, as well as Bay Mills Health Center in Brimley.

Steinhaus, however, said it is vitally important for Canadians to call ahead to those testing locations to see which days of the week testing is available and how long it takes for test results to come back.

“It’s a couple of days before you get your results back (at some of those locations). That’s the concerning part.” 

A list of the testing centres and contact information may be found on the Chippewa County Health Department website.

“We know there are (cross border) families that haven’t seen each other (throughout the pandemic). We welcome Canadian citizens,” Steinhaus said.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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