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U.S. border reopening sigh of relief for Minnesota business

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NORTHERN MINNESOTA -- For the first time in nearly two years, the U.S. will open its land borders for non-essential travel.

The Biden Administration made the announcement Tuesday.

RELATED: United States-Canada border to reopen to nonessential travel next month

It means fully vaccinated people will be allowed to cross from Minnesota to Canada and back regardless of the reason for travel.

In August, Canada opened its borders to vaccinated U.S. citizens giving a small boost to Ryden's Border Store in Grand Portage.

"We were super happy it opened then, and we did see some fishermen, just not as busy as we would've liked," Owner Lori Boomer said. "Now that this opening is coming, it's really going to help."

Boomer said sales at Ryden's have been down more than 80% for almost two years.

She is counting on Canadians to come in the winter when tourists typically do not.

"If it couldn't be sooner, this is great," Boomer said. "We'll take it."

Ryden's owners will spend the next few weeks restocking their products and hiring back employees.

They normally need 15 but dropped down to just three employees in the slow winter months when the border was closed.

"It's been very nerve-wracking because our bills didn't go away, so we're very happy that it's going to open again," Boomer said.

Businesses in International Falls also rely heavily on border travel.

International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce President Tricia Heibel said she is cautiously optimistic on how the new rules will play out.

"We're excited that the option is back on the table that they are welcomed to more freely travel to the U.S. if they're fully vaccinated," Heibel said. "We do plan to hopefully see that impacted in local retail numbers and just our communities as a whole."

A boost in the economy is not the only thing Heibel is looking forward to.

"It's really just the full community unification that we are also very grateful for and that's really equal in importance," she said. "We're excited for the announcement, and we just look forward to the execution of it."

Heibel is learning more about the requirements for Canadians when returning to Canada after traveling to the U.S.

Right now, Canada is requiring a negative COVID-19 test to re-enter the country.

The general sentiment among border communities is, while this could've come sooner, they are glad it is finally here.

"We really didn't understand why it took so long to reopen, but we're really happy that it did," Boomer said.

The border reopening is set for early November.

A similar easing of restrictions is also set to kick in then for air travel.

All international visitors must be vaccinated.

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Kendall Jarboe

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