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CDC says guidance still to come on whether U.S. to require land-border COVID-19 test


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WASHINGTON — Border authorities in the United States are expected to clarify in the coming days whether fully vaccinated foreigners will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to cross the Canada-U.S. land border.

The White House issued updated guidance Monday about its new rules for incoming international travellers, which are scheduled to take effect Nov. 8.

Those rules, which require foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated in order to enter the U.S. for non-essential purposes, clarify the requirements around testing and contact tracing, in particular for unvaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents re-entering the country.

Fully vaccinated foreign nationals will continue to have a three-day window in order to get tested for COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight, while unvaccinated travellers who are otherwise eligible to enter the country will need to be tested within one day.

“I think what we’ve done here is to tighten up and make travel safer, allowing more people to enter the country,” said Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of the travellers’ health branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know that pre-departure testing does reduce transmission risk, and the closer that test is done to the time of departure, the more risk reduction that occurs.”

More details about the requirements to cross the land border into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico are still to be released.

“Those land details are coming soon from Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security,” Friedman said.

Administration officials who briefed the media on the update Monday, however, hinted that the rules for crossing the land border would hew closely to the advice provided by the CDC.

“We are following the exact same CDC guidelines,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under the terms of the briefing.

“CBP is working to finalize the procedures that will be used at the land port of entries. And we should get that out in the next couple days.”

New York congressman Brian Higgins, who has been pressing the White House for months to ease its travel restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border, urged the Department of Homeland Security to hurry up and clarify the rules.

“The lack of specific detail on the process for crossing at land ports is creating confusion,” Higgins’s office said in a statement. “We hope that the administration proceeds with providing the public with clear guidance.”

Despite the Canada-U.S. travel restrictions that have been in place since March 2020, the U.S. has never required “essential” land-border travellers to show proof of a negative test in order to enter the country.

Canada, however, has required travellers to submit the results of a so-called PCR test, taken within three days of travelling, along with their proof of vaccination in order to be allowed over the border.

The White House said Monday that it will accept both PCR tests — which typically run close to $200 in Canada — and the less costly antigen or rapid tests, which are available at most drug stores for about $40.

Children under the age of 18 are currently exempt from the vaccination requirement, “given both the ineligibility of some younger children for vaccination, as well as the global variability in access to vaccination for older children who are eligible to be vaccinated,” the White House said.

Children aged 2-17 will, however, be required to obtain a pre-departure test — no more than three days prior to travelling if accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult, or one day if travelling alone or with an unvaccinated adult.

Other “very limited exceptions” to the vaccination requirement include certain participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials, people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons, those granted permission to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons and people with visas issued in countries with limited access to vaccines.

The CDC has already said it will consider any traveller who received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization to be fully vaccinated for travel purposes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2021.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Boy killed in Brampton fire called 911 to report that he was trapped

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BRAMPTON, Ont. — The mayor of Brampton, Ont., says one of the three boys killed in a house fire Thursday called 911 to report the blaze, but firefighters couldn’t get there in time to save the children.

Patrick Brown says the boy told the emergency dispatcher that he was stuck in the house.

Brown says it only took six minutes for fire trucks to reach the burning house, but by then, the home was fully engulfed in flames.

The boys, who have not been publicly named, but who were aged nine, 12, and 15, died after being taken to hospital.

The local fire department and Office of the Fire Marshal are investigating.

Peel Police Const. Akhil Mooken said Thursday that a mother left her home that morning to drop a younger child off at school, and returned to find the house engulfed in flames.

It’s one of five fatal fires across Ontario that have together claimed 15 lives so far this month.

The Office of the Fire Marshal, which is tasked with investigating such fires in the province, said the numbers of both fatal fires and deaths have dipped compared to January of last year, but there are significantly more deaths than in January 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta RCMP investigating after child found wandering on highway near St. Paul

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ST. PAUL, ALBERTA — Alberta RCMP say they are investigating after a child was found wandering on a highway near a town northeast of Edmonton earlier this week.

Police in St. Paul say in a news release that they received a report about the child at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

They say a concerned motorist found the child on Highway 881 near Township Road 582 and brought the child to the RCMP detachment.

Police say they have started an investigation and are looking for dashcam footage from the area on Tuesday morning.

Earlier this week, St. Paul Education issued a statement on its website saying it was investigating after kindergarten student remained on a bus after it was returned to the driver’s yard following morning drop off.

They say the child left the bus and found their way to a road in a rural area, where a concerned citizen intervened and took the child to the RCMP.

“Drivers are trained to do a mandatory walk through of their bus to ensure it is empty before leaving it,” said the statement from board chairwoman Heather Starosielski and Glen Brodziak, superintendent of schools. “Our initial review indicates this was not done.”

They said the driver has been removed from his duties pending an investigation.

The statement said schools also typically call home to confirm any student absences.

“Our normal procedure is for schools to start to make in-person phone calls at 8:45 a.m. each day beginning with the youngest children first,” it said. “The delay in noting the absence was in part due to the large number of absences that day in the school as a result of several buses not running due to varying road conditions.”

The statement said the school division is reviewing its transportation practices as well as its student absence reporting process.

“We will also fully co-operate should there be an RCMP investigation,” it added.

They said they are thankful for the safe return of the child and the quick response from the concerned citizen.

Environment Canada shows the temperatures in the area hovered around -24 C on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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