Extended Travel Restrictions From Canada To U.S. Could Further Hurt Local Economy

Canadians Margaret Webb and her partner live in the Coachella Valley half of the year.

But this year Webb says they will not be flying south for the winter, like they’ve done for the past eight years, besides missing the sunshine and her friends, “I will miss going into Palm Springs and dining out and shopping, we’re just going to miss the life that we have down there but make the best of it up here,” adding she’s not alone, “I don’t know personally any of my friends that are going to go down this year.”  

That’s because COVID, non essential travel restrictions have been extended again. Canada’s public safety minister, Bill Blair posted on social media on Monday, the Canadian border with the U.S. will be closed through November 21, 2020.

Last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained in an interview on the show The Start on Global News Radio the closures will not be eased as long as COVID-19 numbers remain high in the U.S., “We keep extending the border closures because the united states is not at a place where we feel comfortable opening those borders” 

Air travel is allowed and there are exceptions but Trudeau warned Canadians against non essential travel, “Ultimately, if someone chooses to travel, we’re not going to keep them imprisoned in Canada. There’s freedom of movement in this country,” he said, “still, people have to recognize they’re putting themselves at risk, putting their loved ones at risk. And they may not have the right kind of health insurance or repatriation flights that we did early on if they choose to leave the country.”

Webb agrees with the restrictions, saying she and her partner do not want to risk getting sick.

Joe Wallace the president and CEO of  Coachella Valley Economic Partnership or CVEP says he thinks many Canadians will still come but says if half of those who live here part time don’t come, it will be another blow to this is  valley’s economy. 

“That’s $75 million a month, if you extend that out to six months that’s $450 million that don’t get spent here, this is about the same economic impact of losing two weeks of Coachella Fest or the entire BNP Tennis Tournament, so it’s a big impact,” says Wallace adding they were quick estimations on 25,000 households staying empty during season.

He says the loss of the other events in the valley have sucked out $2 billion dollars out of the economy already.

Palm Springs City Manager David Ready says this shows the importance of getting the virus under control, “There’s no question it affects us in terms of revenue for all our businesses and then of course the tax dollars that we have to apply services.” 

He says the city is doing everything they can to make sure local businesses can weather the economic storm but they are limited on what they can do and the federal government passing another round of economic recovery funding is imperative to the survival of businesses on the brink of permanent closure.

He says they’re working with everyone they can to find a safe temporary solution to travel including rapid tests at the airport, “The Canadian government, the federal government to try and see what creative things that we can do.” 

He urges everyone to do their part to help stem the spread of the virus, including wearing masks, frequent hand washing, social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings.

Ready reminds citizens the county is also on teetering on the edge of going to back the restrictive tier of the state’s reopening plan because of rising COVID numbers and that would be detrimental.

Wallace says if this slow bleeding continues anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of valley businesses may have to close permanently, “I don’t think anybody thought, ‘Gee this will go on for six or seven months,’ but here we are,” he also says going back to the restrictive tier would force many business owners to close or flee the state.

Webb says it saddens her to think that many local business owners are hurting but she’s hopeful things will be back to normal soon, “When we come down next year by this time hopefully there’ll be a vaccine, hopefully some of these businesses will be operating.” 

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