Windsor Tunnel Corporation approves closure of tunnel for cross-border vaccinations

The Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation has unanimously approved the closure of the Windsor side of the international tunnel, for the purpose of administering expiring U.S. COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We are able to move at any time now,” says Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who called the meeting and chairs the tunnel board. “They also approved painting a line at the centre of the tunnel to mark the Canadian and U.S. border so we can make sure that if we have to go down to the tunnel, if it becomes that ridiculous that we have to go down there to get these vaccines in arms, we can make sure everyone stays on the right side of the line so as they don’t have to quarantine and no one’s going to get into trouble.”

Last week, Mayor Dilkens pitched the idea as a work-around, after efforts to send people across for a second-dose vaccination without the need to quarantine upon return to Canada was denied by both the Canadian federal government and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Dilkens has been insistent on making use of the American vaccines after being contacted by Canadian healthcare workers who cross into the U.S. daily, and indicate there is a surplus of vaccines that are set to expire and are destined for a landfill, should they go unused.

“There are a lot of different things in play here,” says Dilkens. “What I’m trying to do is cut through all of the politics, and it is heavy right now, and get to the bottom line, which is accelerating vaccinations for Windsorites in my community with doses being offered.”

Since Dilkens initially floated the idea, his office launched a portal for people to sign up on a wait list so that if and when the plan comes together, they have willing people ready to go get their second vaccination.

“We’ve got 6,000 people who have signed up in the course of a few days on a waiting list who say they want to get the second vaccine that is destined for the landfill. I want to help them do that.”

Among those people on the list is Susan Cassivi.

“It is life or death. And I choose life,” says the Windsor resident, who received her first dose of AstraZeneca in March.

Concerned for her health and well-being, Cassivi and her husband are confining themselves to their property, only leaving for essential trips. She gets the bulk of her exercise by walking back-and-forth across her driveway.

Now looking for a taste of freedom from the lockdown, Cassivi wants the federal government to throw its support behind what she calls a “logical” suggestion from the mayor.

“You have to take care of yourself,” she says. “If the government is not taking care of you, if Canada is not taking care of me, then I have to address it myself and I will do that.”

When asked about the plan during question period last week, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the U.S. deemed that vaccination is not an essential reason to cross the border.

“We encourage the mayor to refocus his efforts to the Premier of Ontario for the doses that he requires,” Minister Hajdu said.

But Dilkens reiterates that his plan doesn’t technically require anyone to cross a border, nor does it involve a vaccine being transported across.

“I would rather work with the federal government on a sensible pathway which is just getting the doses from Michigan and bringing them across and putting them into our system, he says. “But if I have to get creative, I can get creative.”

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s vote, an afternoon call to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which operates the U.S. side of the international crossing, has not yet been returned.

“We’re not trying to do this under the cover of darkness. I want everyone to be on board to make this happen,” says Dilkens. “Everyone keeps saying this is a race between the vaccine and the variant.”

“I want my community to win."