Reopening of US borders brings joy to travelers, COVID-19 concerns remain

Delta Airlines plane
Posted at 10:49 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 23:22:49-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Emotions were running high at the international arrivals section of the Detroit airport on Monday.

“675 days,” Adeline Butcher said as she explained how long it's been since she last saw her parents who live in Paris.

“It’s not easy, but we made it,” she added.

The family reunited on Monday after almost two years as borders reopened to vaccinated international travelers from Mexico, Canada and parts of Europe.

“They were supposed to be here for Easter 2020, but that didn’t happen,” Butcher said.

In March 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection limited travel to essential-only to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, the Canadian border welcomed cars driving in from Windsor to Detroit.

Now that borders are open, it does come with some concern.

“The most common infection associated with travel is respiratory virus illnesses. You’re stuck in a tin can, you’re at 32,000 feet, people are coughing and sneezing. All the things that spread these viruses,” Dr. Joel Fishbain said.

Fishbain is an infectious disease specialist with Beaumont Health and has an extensive background in travel medicine.

“I think we are going to see typical viruses, maybe some more COVID-19,” he said.

Fishbain says there is still a lot that is unknown.

“Could they be bringing a different variant or strain? While we don’t think so, the whole world is watching for these mutations and variants,” he said.

While COVID-19 vaccines are only required for international travelers coming into America, Fishbain says to protect yourself if you’re welcoming guests from overseas.

“I ask that everybody get vaccinated on both ends and I think we may be OK with this,” Fishbain said.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a statement:

“We are pleased to take another step toward easing travel restrictions at our borders in a manner that strengthens our economy and protects the health and safety of the American public,” Mayorkas said.

Delta Airlines said it is already seeing the impact.

“(Delta Airlines) has seen a 450% increase in international point-of-sale bookings versus the six weeks prior to the announcement. Many international flights are expected to operate 100% full on Monday, Nov. 8, with high passenger volume throughout the following weeks,” the company said in a statement.

Fishbain says it’s important to still wear masks and practice social distancing even if you’re vaccinated to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

He says people should also quarantine if they have any symptoms or are feeling unwell after travel.

For more information on the latest travel guidelines, visit DHS’ website.