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Canadians wary of COVID-19 spikes in neighboring U.S.

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A spike in COVID-19 cases in the United States has become a hot topic for Canadians, who unfurled their maple-leaf flags to celebrate Canada Day this week just days ahead of 4th of July celebrations south of the border.

People watch from the sidewalk as a drive-by parade makes its away around town, during Canada Day celebrations in Newcastle, Ontario, Canada July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

The spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed steadily in Canada over the past eight weeks, but outbreaks are worsening in many U.S. states, with Florida shattering records on Thursday by reporting more than 10,000 new cases in one day.

The two countries share the world’s longest demilitarized land border and their economies are closely linked, with 75% of all Canada’s goods exports heading to the United States. Most Canadians have family and friends living across the border.

Shelly Reid, a 44-year-old schoolteacher in Calgary, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set “a great example ... right from Day 1,” and Canadians took his message on staying home, distancing, and handwashing seriously.

“The numbers themselves show how well we’ve done,” Reid said as she celebrated Canada Day with friends in Ottawa. “The United States is such a leader on the global stage, I thought they would have set an example by their actions. Clearly, they’ve shown otherwise.”

In March, Canada and the United States agreed to close the border to all but non-essential travel. Those measures are due to expire on July 21, and Trudeau has said discussions are taking place about what to do next.

According to a poll by Abacus Data, 88% of Canadians want the border to remain closed.

“Canadians pay huge attention to what is happening in the United States, and they are very concerned,” said Frank Graves, president of polling company EKOS Research. “What’s clearly been a disastrous reopening (in parts of the United States) has caused a rebound of prudence in Canadians.”

Canada Day celebrations, which usually include live fireworks and concerts, were entirely online for the first time ever this year.

Eric Sladic, a 51-year-old delivery driver in Ottawa, says the two countries are not only neighbors, but “brothers.”

The way Trudeau’s Liberal government and provincial leaders, who often are members of rival parties, worked together during the pandemic was “spectacular,” Sladic said, and stood in stark contrast to the polarized politics of the United States.

“People not pointing fingers and blaming each other, but actually getting on the same page, that’s a point of pride on Canada Day.”

Reporting by Steve Scherer; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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