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Costly COVID-19 test requirement may deter Canadian shoppers from Washington stores

As the U.S. reopens its border to Canadian travelers, the country's health officials are requiring an expensive COVID-19 test to return home.

LYNDEN, Wash. — The first day of the long-awaited U.S. border reopening came and went with little fanfare at Lynden's Edaleen Dairy store.

It was very quiet at the border town store. For owner Mitch Moorlag, it was far too quiet.

"It's strange," he said. "You can see there's not a lot of traffic, not a lot of customers."

Moorlag reported that he lost 70% of his business at the store since coronavirus forced the closure of the U.S.-Canada border 20 months ago.

Canadians often cross the border into Lynden to buy staples like milk because they're cheaper in the states.

But not these days.

In order to get back into Canada, travelers must pass a pricey molecular COVID-19 test -- even if they were in America for just a few hours..

The tests cost anywhere from $150 to $300.

"For the day shopper, and that's what we specifically have, that's gonna be a pretty stringent requirement for them," said Moorlag.

The rule makes a quick trip across the border for milk, or just about anything else, completely unaffordable for most people.

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Canadian Aman Gill stopped into the store for ice cream, but said he won't be crossing the border to shop nearly as often.

"I might come once a month, if that," he said. "Today, I did a bunch of shopping. I went down to Bellingham and bought a few other things. It's not cheap but it's nice to just be back."

Gill made the trip worth his while, but border town mayors worry the COVID-19 test requirement will hamper tourism to America -- especially for families having to pay hundreds of dollars to return home.

On Monday, Canadian health officials said they are reviewing the testing requirement to determine whether a different, cheaper test should be allowed.

So far, there has been no word as to when or if that might happen.

"We're hopefully optimistic that the testing requirement could go away in the near future," said Moorlag. "We're just not sure what the timeline is on that."

For now, Moorlag is simply happy to see any Canadians in his store and he's welcoming them with open arms.

"We're excited that it's a start, that it's at least open," he said. "Next we'll just see what happens."

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