Document Type

Border Policy Brief

Publication Date

Summer 2020


US - Canada border, COVID 19 economic impact


On February 29th, 2020, the first death from COVID-19 occurred in Washington State. Over the weeks following, both Washington State and British Columbia implemented various efforts aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. On March 14th, B.C. announced closures of many businesses, made recommendations against non-essential travel, and implemented a voluntary two week self- quarantine on Canadians returning to Canada. Two weeks later, Washington issued a stay-at- home order which went into effect March 23rd. These state and provincial measures aimed at limiting mobility were soon followed by coordinated decisions by the U.S. and Canada to limit cross-border travel. These restrictions, which went into effect on March 21st, placed limits on all ‘non-essential’ passenger travel between the two countries, while maintaining the flow of commercial cargo.

This report is one in a series of briefings aimed at improving our understanding of how the border and cross-border activities affect various aspects of Whatcom County’s economy. This is particularly important when considering economic recovery post-COVID-19, as cross-border volumes may remain relatively low even after border restrictions and stay-at-home orders are lifted. The relatively large number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities in Washington State compared to B.C. is likely to influence Canadians’ decisions to engage in discretionary travel to the U.S.1 Analyses presented here illuminate how the short- to medium-term effects of fewer Canadian visitors will likely impact particular sectors in certain locations in Whatcom County in different ways. These BPRI briefings are an effort to describe and measure those impacts. Additional reports consider shopping destinations and tourism.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

COVID-19 (Disease)--Economic aspects--British Columbia; COVID-19 (Disease)--Economic aspects--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Borderlands-Diseases--British Columbia; Borderlands-Diseases--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Interagency coordination--British Columbia; Interagency coordination--Washington (State)--Whatcom County

Geographic Coverage

Whatcom County (Wash.--Economic conditions






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