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Drastic differences in coronavirus response keeping US/Canadian border closed

On July 21, the Vancouver Coastal Health District reported a total of 1,043 with 103 confirmed deaths. King County reported 13,450 with 638 deaths on July 20.

SEATTLE — Although separated by 142 miles of interstate, at first glance it appears the cities of Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle are quite similar. However, the biggest glaring difference is reflected in the coronavirus numbers. 

According to BC’s Ministry of Health, on July 21, the Vancouver Coastal Health District reported a total of 1,043 with 103 confirmed deaths.

King County, on the other hand, reported 13,450 with 638 deaths on July 20. 

In other words, while BC as a whole has more than two million fewer people than Washington State, we’ve had nearly 13 times as many positive cases of coronavirus.

"If we had allowed our leaders, our scientists to come out and say what needs to be done and stick to it. We would have saved a lot of lives in the US," said Dr. Ali Mokdad, UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

RELATED: Report: More Americans look at moving to Canada as coronavirus surges

IHME is an independent health research center that’s a part of the University of Washington.

Mokdad has made his career studying global health. He said while as a whole, Canadians have done a better job adopting social distancing practices, there are a few key differences worth pointing out.

First and foremost, western Washington was essentially caught on its heels as the epicenter of the virus that landed in February. The outbreak ultimately led to the closure of the international border in mid-March.

Earlier this month, the Canadian government announced that the U.S./Canadian border closure would be extended through late August.

“We have to put (the number of cases) in context. British Columbia lives in a sea of COVID-19. If you look at the case numbers in Washington state or in Alberta, they would be, I would say, not happy, but pretty happy to have the case numbers we have here,” said Adrian Dix, British Columbia’s Minister of Health.

RELATED: Coronavirus updates: Canada, US poised to extend border restrictions to Aug. 21