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Windsor residents worry about neighboring “hot zone” as COVID infections rise in Michigan

photo of the Ambassador Bridge
N Bandaru

The province of Ontario in Canada is now under a four-week shutdown due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. The threat to our neighbors in Windsor is due, in part, to the daily border crossing between Windsor and Detroit. 

“We have thousands of nurses and health care workers who live on the Canadian side of the border, but work largely in Detroit at the hospital networks there, the health networks. They're providing an essential service for Michiganders,” said Doug Schmidt, a reporter for the Windsor Star.

This is Ontario’s third emergency lockdown. Schmidt says part of the issue is that Canada is not receiving enough vaccine shipments. That’s despite the fact that “there's a Pfizer manufacturing plant just next door in Michigan to us. But it's not allowed to export to Canada,” he explained. 

Most of the available vaccinations have been given to seniors, but many essential workers have still not been vaccinated. That’s been especially difficult for those who are traveling back and forth across the border. 

Schmidt estimates that more than 2,000 companies and businesses in Windsor are linked to the automotive sector that delivers parts to various manufacturing plants in the Midwest. Many of the workers who transport these goods have been required to abide by strict quarantine procedures after returning home. 

“So, what happens is some of these folks who are returning to Canada are told, ‘Okay, you need to pack, you need to drive up to Toronto three-and-a-half hours drive away. You need to book yourself into one of these quarantine hotels for three days. You need to have negative tests. And when you get that negative test, you have to drive back home and quarantine for 14 days.’ It's onerous. It's expensive. It's not conducive to good business practices,” said Schmidt.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. had more COVID-19 cases and more lenient public health protocols than Canada. For this reason, Schmidt says, many Canadians were happy that the U.S.-Canadian borders were closed. But, he says, those who live in Windsor are much more connected to the U.S. than the rest of the Canadian population. 

“We have so many relationships across the border here: family, work, cultural. Detroit literally is our backyard. And so we miss not being able to cross the border. There's a lot of things we're missing out on in our lives because the border is closed,” said Schmidt. 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan.

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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