UPDATE: On Oct. 12, The U.S. said it reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Read the latest update here.
The San Diego Chamber of Commerce is bracing for what they fear is more bad news next week when they expect the White House to extend restrictions on non-essential travel at land ports of entry.
The restrictions have been in place on a monthly basis since March, 2020. They are scheduled to expire around the third week of every month, but so far during the pandemic, the restrictions have been extended for almost 19 straight months.
Business owners along the border have reported that the long wait times at the ports of entry have caused them to have staffing problems. Many of their workers either stopped showing up or had to endure four to five-hour commutes each way during the height of the pandemic. Not only has staffing been an issue, the loss of travelers and border traffic has also cost many restaurant and store owners a loss in profits.
Now, the San Diego Chamber of Commerce says they want specific metrics about what the region should be aiming for in order to get restrictions eased or lifted. Is the federal government looking for the region to have higher vaccination numbers or fewer COVID cases? They also want to be part of the dialogue with U.S. Customs and Border Protection about how they can ensure whatever new rules are put in place, like proof of vaccination or negative COVID tests, can be planned for.
"Whenever restrictions are lifted, what is the plan? You know, how are CBP officers at land ports of entry going to enforce whatever that plan is to check for negative COVID tests or proof of vaccination? Do they have the infrastructure and personnel to actually implement such restrictions?" wondered Kenia Zamarripa with the San Diego Chamber of Commerce.
In early November, the White House will allow almost all foreign nationals to fly into the United States as long as they have proof of vaccination. Zamarripa said the easing of air restrictions is frustrating to people who can't afford to fly.
"There is a new business booming in Baja about private jets flying people from Tijuana and Ensenada into San Diego because of that and then you're also looking at the 1% that has that ability to purchase that flight, like a 15 min flight, to come to San Diego for tourism or business. It's up to them," she said.
In a statement to NBC 7 a spokesperson from CBP said: "CBP will continue to work closely with international partners to determine how to resume normal travel safely and sustainably."
To see the full interview about border restrictions and their impact on the San Diego region tune into Politically Speaking on Oct. 17 at 9 a.m.