Niagara Falls tour boats show contrast between US and Canadian approach to COVID-19

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The two boats tell very different stories.On board the Maid of the Mist VII, passengers in blue ponchos appear to fill the upper deck and wrap around the lower level as it cruises the US side of Niagara Falls. The Hornblower, run by the Canadians, is nearly empty with just a handful of people wrapped in red, huddled in pairs near the railing.

Images of boats crossing in front of each other under the iconic monument have inflated discussions on social media, with many suggesting that the stark contrast between passengers is symbolic of the difference between the Canadian and U.S. approaches to COVID-19.

It’s a contrast, Hornblower Niagara Cruises vice president Mory DiMaurizio said he also noticed.

“When you look at what’s going on in Ontario or Canada, there is clearly a difference,” he said.

“This is clearly evident in terms of what is happening in terms of the number of infections and cures and deaths proportional to the population of our two countries. ”

Although cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the United States, Canada has been largely successful in containing the spread of the virus, aided by strict social distancing measures and mandatory masks in several jurisdictions.

At the famous waterfalls on the Canada-US border, Canadian ferries are limited to just six passengers per boat, out of a capacity of 700 people. But on the US side, ferries are operating at 50% capacity, according to Maid of the Mist Boat Tours.

“We actually took a picture of the (American) boat,” said Julie Pronovost, visiting Quebec with her family on Tuesday. “I don’t find it very safe to be on a boat like this. It’s much better here. ”

A Maid of the Mist spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company’s website said it was following the advice of New York State public health officials.

The boats contain markers to keep visitors apart, and face covers are mandatory, among other safety changes, he said.

DiMaurizio said his Canadian cruise line was following health precautions, including temperature checks and mandatory masks for everyone on board.

They are currently able to carry 10 people, but that number also includes four crew members needed to make the trip.

“The visuals are pretty ridiculous. You have this giant ship with six people on it, but that’s what’s allowed, ”he explained.

“Of course when we look at our competitor from the other side, we would like to have the capacity to carry 30 or 50%, but doing it safely is just as important, if not more important. “

Slowly increase the volume

Still, Hornblower was able to make “lemonade out of lemons” by offering a new VIP cruise – a nearly empty boat, plus a meal and a funicular ride included with the ticket, he said.

“The ship is yours for the whole trip,” DiMaurizio said, adding that the cruise has been such a success that the company plans to continue offering it even after the passenger numbers increase.

Tourists at the falls on Tuesday said they felt much safer with the limit of six people per boat.

“I’m happy to be in Canada,” said Amanda Barnes of Brampton, Ont. “You can see why the pandemic is raging in the United States and not in Canada when you look at the difference between the boats. “

Jose Mannucci, Mariah Wilson and Jasmine Demers board the Canadian tourist boat Hornblower, limited by Ontario rules to just six passengers amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, July 21, 2020 (Carlos Osorio / Reuters)

The United States reported 57,777 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, compared to 786 in Canada. Since the start of the epidemic, the United States has reported about 118 cases of coronavirus per 10,000 population, while Canada has about 30.

DiMaurizio compared Ontario’s approach to COVID-19 of “slowly turning up the volume.”

The last volume increase is expected to happen on Friday, when Niagara moves to Stage 3 of the province’s plan to reopen.

Under those guidelines, Hornblower will be able to increase its passenger count to 100, DiMaurizio said, but he expects the visual comparison between the two cruise lines to still be austere.

“The hundred or so are still on a ship that holds 700 passengers, so it’s always going to look really meager… on that ship,” DiMaurizio said, noting that the space leaves plenty of room for physical distance.

“It’s still going to look pretty empty. But we’ll take it. “



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