After almost 18 months, nonessential travel to Canada resumes for fully vaccinated Alaskans

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Skagway residents were excited to head north again. The U.S.-Canada border reopened Monday to fully vaccinated American citizens for nonessential travel.

“For Skagway, as a community, it’s really exciting,” said Cathy Howard. “We miss our Canadian friends.”

Howard works at Glacial Coffeehouse in downtown Skagway. She’s planning a trip to Canada next week and is excited to visit Whitehorse with its bigger stores, greater selection of restaurants and its Tim Horton’s.

“But also, my vet is there,” Howard said. “My little furry friend really is needing to get up there and be seen.”

Chewie, Howard’s dog, was born in Canada and has his regular veterinarian in Whitehorse. He got his name after chewing on Howard’s passport on his first drive into Alaska.

Veterinarians are in short supply in Skagway — so are dentists and optometrists. Some residents have already booked their appointments in Canada.

Others, like Cindy Godbey, are excited to visit friends. Godbey hasn’t been to Canada in 22 months despite owning property in Atlin.

And then there’s the impact of cabin fever. The Klondike Highway leaves Skagway and snakes up the iconic White Pass before crossing the border around 15 miles out of town.

The closure of the Canadian border in March 2020 has meant residents have been hemmed in.

“I feel like one of the reasons I moved to Skagway was ‘cause of the access, along the highway to the north, being able to hike and fish in some real wilderness areas,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata of the Municipality of Skagway.

Cremata is hoping to take the day off on Thursday to go trout fishing and hiking in Yukon Territory.

He downloaded the ArriveCan app on Monday morning and tried it out. It’s used to submit vaccine cards and proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of crossing into Canada.

“It shouldn’t be too much of a headache to get through the border,” Cremata added, saying the app was easy to use.

The nonessential travel is only happening in one direction, for now. The U.S. government has not announced when Canadian tourists will be able to visit but that is set to be reviewed on Aug. 21.

Godbey is excited for Canadian residents to come back. She has performed in Skagway for 28 years as “Dawson Dolly,” a character in a Gold Rush-era costume, telling the history of the town and ribald jokes.

“It’s going to be very, very exciting for everyone in town,” she said.

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