The Maid of the Mist, coronavirus and America’s ship of fools

Image of the Week: The contrast between U.S. and Canadian pandemic policy can be seen aboard the countries’ respective tour boats below Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Ont., has been a ghost town for most of this year. During the spring lockdown, there were no visitors to the natural world wonder, no shops nor hotels open, no rides running, no weekly fireworks celebrations. Now, in the summer, all that has changed—in fact, local health authorities are nervously watching tourists flock back to cramped sidewalks as the ferris wheel begins spinning and revving go-karts can be heard from blocks away. But hubris is as contagious as the novel coronavirus, and many Niagarans feel self-assured simply by virtue of not living across the river on the American side. The State of New York has more than 400,000 cases of COVID-19 and 32,000 deaths, a significant chunk of the country’s nearly 4 million cases and 144,000 deaths. Yet the entire state is now in its fourth and final phase of reopening, inviting tourists from across the United States to come and marvel at the mightiest waterfall on the continent, with little indication that the world has changed. Are tourist operators taking precautions? Sure, a few. The infamous Maid of the Mist boat is operating at 50 per cent capacity, delivering about 200 guests per trip to a close-up view of the falls. The contrast is striking against the Canadian side, where Hornblower Cruises has been operating with six guests per trip since the beginning of July, and will up that to 100 this week, which is still less than 15 per cent of their 700-person capacity. No wonder Canadian Niagarans want to keep the border shut as long as possible. As soon as the floodgates open, there’s going to be a flood.

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