Five kids in the tiny Alaskan town of Hyder are calling on Canada’s federal government to make a COVID exception for them. The current rules restricting border travel are preventing the kids from being able to attend school this year.
“Four hours away at the end of Highway 37A, kids in Hyder, Alaska are unable to attend school, as the community does not have a school,” reads a post on the Terrace Community Bulletin Board explaining the situation. “The town of Hyder is fully closed off from the rest of the state, with only air or boat transportation to get to and from the rest of Alaska. Stewart, BC, has all of their essential services, but due to the Covid-19 border protocols, they are not allowed to enter. Their only permitted time to enter is one day a week for a few hours to shop. Kids are missing out on an education because of this.”
Last week, the children staged a protest, sitting at school desks on the road with a hand-painted banner addressed to Canada’s Minister of Public Health and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair. “Mr. Blair, please let us go to school,” it read. There have been no reported COVID cases in Stewart or Hyder so far.
Residents of the two towns have formed a “Hyder-Stewart action committee” that is calling for a special “Bear Bubble” between the towns that would let Hyder residents cross into Canada at the Stewart point of entry without having to quarantine for 14 days.
“The arrangement has been endorsed by Canadian MPs Taylor Bachrach and Jack Harris, Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, Governor Mike Dunleavy and Alaska State Legislature Representative Dan Ortiz,” CBC reported.
So far there has been no word from the federal government. “We believe that our geographic remoteness and integration at every level, along with no cases of COVID-19 in either town warrant a relaxation of the harsh border restrictions, which will alleviate the undue burdens our community members face at this time,” reads the Facebook page for the committee.
A similar situation is being faced by residents of Point Roberts, a US community cut off from the American mainland that is just south of the B.C. community Tsawwassen. About 30 Point Roberts students attend school in Canada and learned last month from the federal government that “students crossing the border to attend school on a daily basis are not exempt from the 14-day quarantine period.”
What do you think? Should COVID restrictions be eased for these kids?