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White Rock residents concerned about state of Birch Bay vacation properties

A White Rock woman has concerns about the condition of a property she owns in Birch Bay, Wash., now that it has been several months since she’s been able to cross the U.S. border.

Paula Grant, who has owned the “weekend home” for the last 13 years with her husband, said they were visiting the property in March when Canadians were advised to return home due to COVID-19.

She said the couple quickly packed some of their belongings and left the U.S., not realizing that it would be months until they could return.

“Like, we still have food in our fridge down there. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. We’re hoping we haven’t had any leaks,” she said, adding that she also has a concern regarding insurance and the home sitting empty for four months.

While Grant said she would love to have a “staycation” in B.C., all of her camping equipment, including a trailer and kayaks, are stored in Birch Bay.

“We’re all feeling kind of anxious.”

Grant said she’s aware of four or five Canadians who live in her Birch Bay neighbourhood. She has been in contact with them and they all have similar concerns. Grant said she decided to try to cross the border by car in May, just to see what would happen.

When they got to the U.S. border, while wearing masks, she and her husband were sent to secondary inspection. The secondary inspection resulted in them being turned back to Canada.

RELATED: Canada-U.S. border closure to be extended until July 21

Even though they didn’t officially cross into the U.S. and didn’t leave the vehicle, government officials on the Canadian side of the border told them to isolate for 14 days and took down their contact information.

A few days later she received a call from the Government of Canada. The purpose of the call, she said, was to check if the pair was indeed isolating.

She explained her situation to the official, noting that they never actually entered the U.S. or left their car, and the official informed them that they no longer had to quarantine.

Now, every month, Grant anxiously waits for the scheduled end of the border closure, only for it to be extended another month.

The border is currently scheduled to reopen to non-essential travel on July 21.

Speaking about the issue during an event in Richmond earlier this month, B.C. premier John Horgan called for the border to remain closed until the COVID-19 virus is brought under control in the U.S.

Grant said she’s aware of Canadians successfully entering the U.S. by plane. But that isn’t a feasible option for a number of reasons, she said, including that once she lands, she wouldn’t have a vehicle to transport her trailer back to Canada.

“I don’t want to fly into Seattle airport. I just want to go to Birch Bay, 10 minutes away,” she said, adding that she can almost see her weekend home from White Rock.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about international travel during a COVID-19 press conference Monday afternoon.

“A number of our new cases are people who have either travelled or have been in contact with somebody who just came back from the U.S.,” Henry said.

“It is a worry – it’s very much a concern. We know that there’s quite a bit of travel across the border but nothing like we usually see.”

Henry said she cannot see international travel between the U.S. and Canada resuming this summer, given how widespread COVID-19 infections are in the U.S.

However, she said she encourages families to take the opportunity to reunite across the border.

“But any further loosening of the restrictions needs to be accompanied by ensuring that people know the restrictions that they need to follow once they’re here, including self-isolation for that incubation period,” Henry said.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

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