03.18.20

Peters & Stabenow Raise Concerns over Possible Michigan Impact of Canada’s Coronavirus Travel Restrictions

Senators Urge President Trump to Clarify New Canadian Policy, Consider Impact on Michigan & Northern Border States’ COVID-19 Response Efforts

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) wrote President Donald J. Trump to ensure his Administration is working with the Government of Canada on its new travel restrictions that could have an unintended impact on Michigan’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier this week, amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his intention to close the Canadian border to any individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents, with the exception of U.S. citizens. In their letter, the Senators raised the possibility that these restrictions, if expanded, could have serious implications for Michigan and other states that share a border with Canada and urged the President to clarify the policy with his Canadian counterpart as quickly as possible.

“We recognize that extraordinary measures must be taken to prevent the spread of the virus, and commend the efforts our Canadian partners are making to accomplish that goal,” the Senators wrote. “At the same time, we must monitor for any unintended consequences that could hinder our health care system’s ability to respond to this crisis.”

In their announcement, the Public Health Agency of Canada outlined specific exceptions to the newly implemented travel restrictions for workers in the “trades and transportation sector” as well as “health care providers and critical infrastructure workers.” The Senators sought information on how the U.S. and Canadian governments are coordinating their efforts to implement these travel restrictions, as well as what measures have been taken to ensure that critical personnel like health care providers and first responders can continue to cross the border. The Senators requested a detailed explanation of which individuals would be exempted from the policy under the “health care provider” and “critical infrastructure” exceptions.

These exceptions are particularly important for Michigan and other Northern Border states, where thousands of workers – including health care providers, manufacturers, and agricultural producers – rely on efficient and reliable cross-border trade and travel. In southeast Michigan alone, approximately 950 employees from the Henry Ford Health System cross the border for work on a daily basis. More broadly, experts estimate that as many as 40,000 people living in Canada cross the border to work in the United States.

Text of the letter is copied below and available here:

March 17, 2020 

The Honorable Donald Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you with concern about how Canada’s new travel restrictions will impact novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts here in the United States. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced that beginning March 18, the Government of Canada will “[b]ar foreign nationals from all countries except the United States from entering Canada.” All individuals that are allowed entry are advised to “self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada.” While we understand why limiting unnecessary travel is wise, these restrictions may pose serious implications for Michigan and other northern border states, and could potentially hamper COVID-19 response efforts within our country’s borders. We urge you to clarify the ramifications of this policy with our Canadian partners as soon as possible.

The Public Health Agency of Canada outlined exceptions to their policy for essential workers in the “trades and transportation sector,” along with “health care providers and critical infrastructure workers.” These exceptions are of critical importance to Michigan, where thousands of workers from industries that rely on international trade such as manufacturing and agriculture, and health care employees and first responders, cross the U.S.-Canada border every day. In Michigan, it has been reported that approximately 950 employees from the Henry Ford Health System alone cross the border for work on a daily basis, and hundreds more work for the region's other major health care systems, including the Detroit Medical Center, Beaumont, and St. John Providence. More broadly, it is estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 Canadians work in the U.S with nonimmigrant TN visas.

We recognize that extraordinary measures must be taken to prevent the spread of the virus, and commend the efforts our Canadian partners are making to accomplish that goal. At the same time, we must monitor for any unintended consequences that could hinder our health care system’s ability to respond to this crisis. Therefore, we urge your Administration to coordinate with Canadian authorities as soon as possible to answer the below questions and ensure that border crossings for critical response personnel are not impeded:

  • What coordination is occurring between the U.S. and Canadian governments to implement this travel restriction policy? How are you ensuring that critical response personnel can continue to cross the U.S.-Canada border?

  • Who determines what qualifies as “critical infrastructure”?

  • Who determines what qualifies as a “health care provider”?

  • What kind of credentialing is required to gain the ability to cross the border under the “health care provider” exemption?

  • Which U.S. agencies will work with Canada if they decide to make a change to the exemptions currently in place?

    • How will you ensure that U.S. hospitals and other healthcare facilities have enough time to adapt or make arrangements to house their workforce?

  • How is the Administration helping hospitals and other health care facilities prepare plans to adapt to the potential for more stringent border closures?

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