An American Thanksgiving; What Would it Take to Cross Borders?

Everyone knows that COVID-19 has changed the world’s landscape dramatically and when Canada and the United States finally agreed to begin letting travellers back across their boarders many people in Canada felt relieved. A part of “normalcy” was about to return.

A few weeks after the initial boarder opening for fully vaccinated travellers to come into Canada from the US many people in Canada eagerly waited for the travel restrictions to ease and allow for future travel. Myself included.

On Monday November 8, the news broke here in Alberta that fully vaccinated travellers would be allowed to travel into the United States with a few provisions. A simple Antigen Test that proves one to be “negative” of COVID-19.

At this time I began planning my own travels to the south to visit family and friends living in the state of Wisconsin. I spent several hours over the next few days scouring the internet to understand logistically what was required to get to the US and what was required to return.

Simply put, I had to spend $40 to $100 Canadian Dollars for an Antigen Test which takes 20-minutes for the results to be provided. With a negative test you are cleared by a local Pharmacist for safe travel on any major commercial airlines. I chose to have my test completed at a pharmacy close to work called The Medicine Shoppe.

The test required by the Government of Canada (GOC) is commonly referred to as a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test also known as a molecular test. There are several variations of this test such as the Nucleic acid test (NAT) or Nucleaic acid amplification test (NAAT) or Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) test or Reverse transcription real time PCR test (RT-PCR) or 15 other different types of tests all which must inform a negative result which meant you were safe from COVID-19 and allowed to return from your travels.

Next on the list of requirements was the conditions of when the test must be taken;

  • provide proof of a COVID-19 negative molecular test result taken within 72 hours of your scheduled flight, or arrival at a land border crossing to enter Canada OR
  • proof of a previous positive test result taken between 14 and 180 days.

Everything seemed fairly clear.

  1. To depart Canada, obtain an Antigen test
  2. To return to Canada, obtain a PCR test

My next piece of research was to determine where and when I could obtain this PCR test and at what cost?

I began drafting a list of hospitals, pharmacies and medical labs for the town I would be staying at which was 20-minutes outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As I wrote down each business all I could think about was I hope they will perform a test for a traveller?

  • Meijer Pharmacy
  • Pick n Save Pharmacy
  • Walgreens Pharmacy
  • Waukesha Free Clinic
  • Village Care Group
  • Summit Medical Labs
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Ascension Clinic
  • Milwaukee North Health Centre
  • Hayat Pharmacy

After writing down their names, addresses and phone numbers on a piece of paper, I began reading through some of their websites to prepare myself for the phone calls I was about to make. I wanted to talk to the Pharmacist to ensure (1) they would perform a test on a non-US Citizen and (2) how quickly the results would be provided?

The largest concern of course was I was about the enter into one of the busiest travel weeks of the year: American Thanksgiving.

Each website read nearly the same… Fill out an appointment date and time, show up on the day, wait in your car, a practitioner will meet you for you to complete the test in front of them, prove who you are, and show your insurance card.

Test results are sent to another laboratory for processing and results are provided via a website in 2 to 5 businesses days. If you tick the box saying you have no insurance then you are charged a nominal fee up to $300 USD.

WAIT!! WHAT??

How could that be? Test results in 2 to 5 business days? That will not work!

I starred at the screen, mulling over what I had just read and reread and kept re-reading… This was not going to work! I had to have my molecular test and reciprocal results within 72-hours of the international departing flight! DAMN IT!!

Picking up the cellphone I began punching in the phone number of each pharmacy, medical lab and hospital on my list. I started asking each person who answered about the PCR / molecular test and how to obtain it?

Eventually, I spoke to a woman who seemed to understand the severity of what I was talking about and suggested I contact Summit Medical Labs, as she knew they were a government funded lab by the Department of Health in Wisconsin. She provided their phone number.

Upon calling the number provided a recorded voice message informed…

PCR test for travellers $100 with same day results. No appointment necessary. Results provided between 9am and midnight. Results retrieved on a website.

Hanging up the phone, inwardly I smiled then my fist hit the air, as my voice yelled out: YEESSSSS !!!

It was now a possibility to travel across the Canada-US border and return safely, as long as you follow the necessary protocols. International travel was back and all this adventure seeker required was time-off work, a plane ticket, a rental car, and to inform the family, I’d be home for Thanksgiving Day Dinner!

~ James Curtis

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