WASHINGTON, D.C. (KINY) - In an effort to address the US-Canada border issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, Congressman Don Young, and Governor Mike Dunleavy (all R-AK) sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, raising issues severely impacting Alaskans.
In their letter, the Alaska Delegation highlighted specific, persisting challenges impacting the health and safety of Alaskans and proposed reasonable solutions.
The delegation explained that each year Alaskans, many elderly and with medical conditions, journey south, traveling through Canada to the contiguous United States, in order to be closer to comprehensive medical facilities better equipped to address their healthcare needs in addition to being in a warmer climate, which is easier on their health.
Such travel is currently considered non-essential according to Canada's cross-border travel restrictions.
In addition, the Delegation raised the unique circumstance of residents in Hyder, Alaska who are being impacted by current border closures.
For example, the only grocery store in the region is located in nearby Stewart, British Columbia, and Hyder children typically attend the nearby Canadian schools.
The Delegation proposed the following solutions.
Allow an exception for non-discretionary, essential travel permitting Alaskans to transit south for the winter. This includes supporting a requirement that each Alaskan allowed to travel must present a negative COVID-19 test prior to transiting through Canada.
Allow a travel bubble between Hyder and Stewart allowing residents to visit family and access essential supplies, schools, medical care, religious services and other essential functions for these two highly-integrated, and very isolated communities.