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Residents Of Upstate New York Eagerly Await Reopening Of U.S-Canadian Border

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Starting August 9, Americans who are fully vaccinated will once again be able to cross into Canada. Ryan Finnerty of North Country Public Radio takes us to one border town in upstate New York where residents have been waiting more than a year for this news.

RYAN FINNERTY, BYLINE: For many Americans living along the country's northern edge, crossing this international boundary was once a part of everyday life. They're looking forward to resuming that rhythm.

LUCY MCSWEENY: Oh, I'm sure she loves you, too.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Thank you.

FINNERTY: I caught Lucy McSweeny walking her golden retriever, Rosie, through downtown Plattsburgh, about 30 minutes south of the border.

MCSWEENY: Everyone I know - we are all so excited. We could not be more excited about the border reopening just because for us, it's not so much a boundary as it is just another thing that we really live with.

FINNERTY: Plattsburgh is a classic northeast mill town with a riverside downtown of brick buildings tucked between the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain. Sitting at a sidewalk table outside the purple and yellow Koffee Kat espresso bar, John Bianchini says he plans to visit Canada shortly after the planned lifting of travel restrictions in mid-August.

JOHN BIANCHINI: We have plans to go to - not to Montreal, but to Niagara Falls. We've been holding off now for a year and a half to bring friends up to actually see the Falls on the Canadian side and the U.S. side.

FINNERTY: Others are planning to be a little more cautious, like college student Hailey Christiansen. Walking out of a downtown shop, she says her university has been requiring students to report any international travel, so she plans to wait for clarification on the new rules.

HAILEY CHRISTIANSEN: I mean, this whole year, a lot of schools have different, like, restrictions when it comes to that. Even doctor's appointments, like, you have to let them know if you've been out of the country in two weeks.

FINNERTY: But she already knows where she wants to go eventually.

CHRISTIANSEN: Montreal like we used to do, Quebec City - anything, honestly. I love Canada.

FINNERTY: Cross-border commerce is a huge source of economic activity for this region, which sits just below Canada's two most populous provinces. So most local businesses are eager to get Canadian customers back through their doors. The Biden administration hasn't set a date for when Canadian visitors can return, but some businesses still see an upside to Canada letting Americans back in. Mia Young is working at the Old Soul plant shop, surrounded by hanging plants and vintage furniture.

MIA YOUNG: I know that the owner would love to be able to go up there and hit some of the thrift shops, some of the plant stores that are up there. So that would be really helpful for us getting inventory and stuff like that.

FINNERTY: Across the state, public health officials are warning about the spread of the delta variant. But nearly 70% of New Yorkers aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated, and soon they'll be able to visit their neighbors to the north once again.

For NPR News, I'm Ryan Finnerty in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.