Inslee Asks Canadian PM to Help Find a Solution for Point Roberts' COVID Isolation


Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter Friday, Aug. 21, to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking he facilitate cooperation with the United States in finding a solution to help Point Roberts residents isolated by the closure of the border to non-essential travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately 1,300 Point Roberts residents cannot travel to the rest of Whatcom County without entering British Columbia, driving approximately 26 miles around Boundary Bay and re-entering the United States in Blaine at the Peace Arch Border Crossing.

The crossings in Point Roberts and Blaine have been closed since the two countries decided to prohibit non-essential travel in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on March 21. The two countries announced last week a fifth extension of the border restrictions until at least Sept. 21.

"Given the community's isolation, there are very limited services available in Point Roberts and residents customarily travel into Canada or to Whatcom County to obtain needed goods and services, including regularly accessing schools and education centers due to quarantine rules," Inslee wrote in his letter.

"As such, Washingtonians living in Point Roberts face unique hardships resulting from COVID-19 border closures, including challenges for students' academic and athletic careers, increased uncertainty for local businesses and an inability to see family and loved ones living outside the Point Roberts enclave on the Tsawwassen peninsula."

Inslee went on to suggest the two countries enact allowances for Point Roberts residents to make trips to the mainland U.S. similar to those the two countries formed to allow Americans traveling by land to Alaska to receive a transit passes. Inslee also welcomed other ideas.

"It is my goal to develop a practical solution to this issue that can work through the duration of the border closure resulting from COVID-19," Inslee wrote. "We very much appreciate the cooperation of the Canadian government on a number of border closure-related concerns."

Inslee's letter follows similar requests sent to Canada from other Washington state politicians.

Point Roberts' isolation during the pandemic has previously forced Whatcom County Fire District 5 Chief Christopher Carleton to take to social media and write letters to U.S. and Canadian policymakers saying residents are "living under the equivalent of house arrest."

Point Roberts resident John Beal started a petition in late May requesting the list of "essential reasons to cross the border" during the COVID-19 crisis be expanded for residents.

British Columbians who own Whatcom County property in Point Roberts also have petitioned for an exemption to cross the border so they can check on their houses, boats and even some animals.

The Port of Bellingham and Whatcom Transportation Authority have responded to the issue by announcing that they will provide a short-term, emergency transportation service beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 25. A passenger-only ferry will take Point Roberts residents to the Blaine Harbor, where they can take WTA to the Cordata Station in Bellingham.

The ferry service will be once a week on Tuesdays but could increase if there is enough demand, according to a news release from the port. The ferry service is free, but reservations are required.

Departure and arrival times could vary, so updates will be posted on the Port of Bellingham's website. For Aug. 25, the ferry is scheduled to depart Point Roberts at 9:30 a.m., arriving in Blaine at 11 a.m. It will depart Blaine at 4 p.m., arriving at Point Roberts at 5:30 p.m.


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