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The pandemic affected Pinal County in many ways, more than just the sickness and death that occurred. The economy was difficult, especially for small businesses and many workers. The tourism industry was affected severely. This year seems more normal, however, and winter visitors are back in greater numbers. On Monday U.S. borders were opened, and Canadians and Mexicans are flooding through ports of entry.

Canadian visitors have become an important part of the Pinal County economy, and many own property here. In the past, they have been able to fly into the U.S., and some have done so. Now, however, the borders are open to land travel. Photos showing long lines at the Canada-U.S. border before dawn on Monday indicate that Canadians are eager to head south to warmer climes for the winter. And the weather here is ideal now.

Many jobs are being created in Pinal, and Casa Grande streets have been busy already, not just from the winter visitors. Now, as usual, they will get busier. Traditionally that happens to an even greater extent after the first of the year. Travel across town takes a little longer, and so does getting into restaurants at times. However, most full-time residents realize that the increased winter trade supports businesses that otherwise would not exist, and most of them operate year round.

Vaccinated American tourists have been able to enter Canada since Aug. 9, and those from other countries since Sept. 7. Approval to enter the U.S. took a little longer, but it is part of the huge process of getting back to normal.

COVID-19 still is a problem in the U.S. and the world, but it is generally decreasing mainly because of the vaccines. Controversy over mandates still is raging, but that issue will be sorted out eventually.

For now, welcoming tourists back across the border — as well as those from the northern states — is something to get excited about, even if Florence Boulevard is a little more crowded.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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