Traveling from Seattle to Vancouver as fully vaccinated Canadians

This past weekend we went up to Vancouver to visit Mom and Sarah’s brother, Nick. It’s the first time we’ve been up in a very long time, and the new border rules were still new and uncertain. Overall, it was painless and we had no problems going either direction, aside from having to take an extra covid test because I misread the entry requirements. Below is our experience, please feel free to share if you know someone who would be interested.

There are a few variables that determine what the experience is going to be like. In our case, we are:

  • Canadian Citizens
  • American Permanent Residents
  • Fully vaccinated
  • Travelling from Seattle, to Vancouver, and back again
  • Travelling, by land, through Peace Arch
  • Of a middling age (there are special rules for older or very young travellers)

Before we could go north, we had to take a Covid test. The test has to be:

  • administered no more than 72 hours in advance
  • a molecular test (the fast and cheap antibody/antigen tests do not count)
  • administered by a professional (at home test kits do not count; although I’ve heard of folks who’ve fibbed a bit and made it work)

Once you get to the border, you will need to show your travel documents, proof that you are fully vaccinated for more than 14 days, and your negative test results. Because there’s a lot of extra paperwork, the crossing took longer than usual. We prefilled our information using the ArriveCan mobile phone app before arrival, and it still took ~10 minutes.

We had to provide a quarantine plan at the border even though we met the quarantine exemption. In our case, we said we would stay at Mom’s apartment and she would stay at her sister’s. We didn’t expect to do this because we were exempt, but it was a thing that could be done if required.

Before we left, the border guard handed us each a small box, containing our arrival tests. You have to provide test results when you cross, and must quarantine until you’ve submitted a second test. The test can be taken at home (you’ll need internet and the ability to video conference) OR you can take the test at the border if the testing tent is open when you arrive. We chose to test at the border so that by the time we drove away we were free from any masking or quarantine requirements.

I’ve now taken three covid tests, none were scary. The one we took at the Canadian boarder was the most invasive of the bunch – take a cotton swab and rub the inside of your right cheek ten times, then the left ten times, then swirl the same stick around in each nostril for 15 seconds per nostril. I did three of these kinds of tests over three days. I now have very clean nostrils.

And that’s how you enter Canada! 🇨🇦

The return trip was a little different. We drove up to the border, showed our green cards, commiserated with the guard about the lack of ketchup chips in America, and drove home. Super easy.

The only other thing worth noting is that we did NOT take Xavier. He’s too young to be fully vaccinated, and therefor would have had to quarantine for 14 days upon entering Canada. He spent the weekend in Seattle with his Grandparents.

I’ve been at home too long

2020 will be the year of not going outside. Not that I’m much for going outside in the first place. When the advice came out to encourage social distancing, both Sarah and I looked at each other and said “Stay at home and don’t talk to people? We’ve been training for this my whole life! We got this!”

Our first encounter with Covid-19 seems like forever ago now. Xavier and I ducked out for a routine trip to Costco one Sunday morning. Feb 29th to be precise. When we pulled into the parking lot it was PACKED. Not weekend-shopper packed, but pre-thanksgiving dinner or the week-before-Christmas packed. We would have left but as fortune would have it, someone pulled out right as we pulled in and we landed a choice spot. Score!

As we walked up and down the aisles searching for what was on our shopping list we couldn’t help but notice that nearly all the shoppers there were only buying Clorox Wipes, Toilet Paper and bottled water. We definitely had the feeling that some global memo had been sent out to the residents of Kirkland that we’d somehow missed. People were clearly “apocalypse shopping” but we didn’t know why.

Side note: “Apocalypse shopping” is a phrase that has entered my vocabulary since moving to the United States. This is when everyone goes to the store to prepare for short-term societal collapse. Often on account of major weather events, like a blizzard.

We picked up what we needed, queued up, and asked the teller at the exit what was going on. She leaned forwards and whispered:

“In about 3 minutes, there will be a major news conference that will announce the first Coronavirus related death on US soil,” she may have said “that’s not travel related” but I don’t recall for sure. Then she gestured to the massive queues and added “Obviously it’s not a well kept secret.”

X and I listened to the press release in the car.

Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health are announcing new cases of COVID-19, including one death. The individual who died was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions who had no history of travel or contact with a known COVID-19 case. Public Health is also reporting two cases of COVID-19 virus connected to a long-term care facility in King County.

The man had been treated at Evergreen Hospital, which is 13-15 minutes from where we live, and very much a part of our extended neighborhood. All three of us see medical professionals at Evergreen, and frequent the nearby shops. We drive through that area several times a week as we go about our “normal” life.

This is how we learned we were Ground Zero for the US-edition of the Covid crisis.

At that point, out of an abundance of caution, we decided to play it safe and stay at home for a few days. By Wednesday, we’d been notified that X’s school would close for a few days. By Thursday, I’d been told that I could work from home for a few weeks. By the following Monday, school was moved to online-only learning and we’d gotten guidance to just stay at home to work unless we had good reason to do otherwise. Things have only gotten more restricted since then.

We spent two weeks in full lockdown mode, and then I made a quick day trip up to see Mom on March 15th to celebrate her birthday with a HUGE Costco shopping trip so she wouldn’t have to leave the house for essentials for a bit. Since then, I’ve been here.

That’s 49 days since we started out lockdown, and 34 days since I’ve left home.

That’s a very long time.