Coronavirus on U.S.-Canada border: Hyder, Alaska, children shut out of Stewart, B.C., school - The Washington Post
The mining towns of Hyder and Stewart form one of many cross-border communities along the U.S.-Canada frontier that have been severed for months by coronavirus travel restrictions.Canada’s coronavirus performance hasn’t been perfect. But it’s done far better than the U.S. Now several such communities are pushing for local reopenings. Hyder and Stewart, which have reported no cases of covid-19, are pushing Canada to designate the region an “integrated trans-border community,” exempt from travel restrictions and quarantines. Lawmakers representing Point Roberts, Wash., and Minnesota’s Northwest Angle have asked Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to ease and clarify the rules. “This is our local traffic only that we’re advocating for,” said Jane Beaumont, a registered nurse in Stewart who grew up in Hyder and has family there. “We’re not advocating for tourism.”
President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to close the 5,500-mile land border to nonessential traffic in March, and have extended the restrictions in monthly increments ever since. The rules were tightened in July for U.S. travelers transiting through Canada to Alaska for essential travel. The current closure lasts through Oct. 21.
The measures are widely supported in Canada, which has fared far better against the coronavirus than the United States (though several provinces have seen cases climb in recent weeks). The restrictions have had minimal impact on trade, but they’ve hit tourism, split families and upended life in tightly knit border communities in ways big and small that some fear could be permanent. Some Canadian businesses want to let Americans back in. Most Canadians don’t. That’s particularly apparent in Hyder, Alaska’s easternmost town, home to some 60 souls, and Stewart, a comparative metropolis of more than 400. The only way in or out of Hyder is through Stewart or by float plane. Families there rely on Stewart for gas, groceries, laundry, firewood and electricity. They set their clocks to Stewart time. Their phone numbers use the B.C. area code. Each July 1, when a pandemic isn’t closing the border, the people of Hyder cross into Stewart for a Canada Day parade. Three days later, the people of Stewart head in the opposite direction for the Fourth of July. (Festivities include the “Bush Woman Classic,” an obstacle course of sorts in which female contestants must chop wood, flip a flapjack, diaper a baby doll and then apply lipstick while running 20 yards to the finish line.)
President Barack Obama pointed to the bond between the towns as evidence of the close ties between Canada and the United States during Trudeau’s state visit in 2016.Now, each Hyder household may send one member on a three-hour visit to Stewart for essentials every seven days. Residents of Stewart may enter Hyder because there’s no U.S. immigration control, but must quarantine for 14 days upon their return. Miners who enter Hyder to work are exempt because the activity is considered essential. Support for a travel bubble is widespread. Stewart Mayor Gina McKay said she worries about her Hyder neighbors, and whether they’ll be able to adequately prepare for winter and months more of isolation.