Who Decides What is Covid “Essential”?

Essential . What does this mean? Here is the Oxford dictionary definition of Essential.

1 Adjective: absolutely necessary; extremely important:

2. Noun: a thing that is absolutely necessary

But how does this definition apply during Covid? When Ontario went into a State of Emergency Lockdown big stores could only offer “essential” items for sale, all other areas had to be closed off. So groceries, pharmacy and cleaning supplies were available but big screen TVs were not.

That all seemed to make sense but how does the “essential” definition apply for travel to the USA?  You cannot enter the US by car unless it is for an “essential” reason. Who decides what is essential and what is not? The officer you roll up to at the border is the person who holds the fate of your journey in their hands.

As of writing this post the Tokyo Olympics were still going ahead. For dressage riders the criteria requires that the horse and rider combinations compete at  a CDI3*(Concours Dressage International) or higher. This requires 5 FEI level judges and the horse and rider must compete in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special. There must be one set of scores that is after April 1, 2021. In a normal year that would not be a problem but since Ontario is now in the Emergency Lockdown competitions have been cancelled.  For riders who competed in Florida over the winter they will have their scores. But for those who did not go to Florida due to Covid concerns they do not have their scores. But there was a possible solution with a CDI4* in Tryon, North Carolina, April 22-25.. 

Megan Lane competing for Canada at the World Equestrian Games 2018

Megan Lane is a Canadian Dressage Olympian. She competed for Canada in the Rio Olympics in 2016 and at the World Equestrian Games in  2018. I posted last year that she had decided to go to Florida for the winter competition season. But after considering the Covid situation in Florida she choose to stay at home. She decided to take advantage of the Tryon CDI4* to meet the Criteria for consideration for the Canadian Team for Tokyo. She set off together with her horse’s owners, her groom and two horses to the border. She had a letter from the head of  High Performance at Equestrian Canada that stated that this was an essential trip due to the necessity of getting qualifying scores and she also had a permission letter from the US Equestrian Federation,

All the t’s were crossed and the i’s dotted. But the best laid plans can sometimes go awry. The US official Megan appeared before at the US border did not see her trip as “essential”.  There is no arguing with an immigration official. Megan had to turn around and drive home.

There will be no Olympic team consideration for Megan this year.  Her trip was not considered “essential” enough. So I ask you again: Who decides what is “Essential”?  I guess an athletes Olympic aspirations are not “essential” and the Oxford dictionary’s opinions are not held by some US border officials.

But to be honest, with Tokyo currently in a Covid lockdown, perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.

Megan salutes the judge at the World Equestrian Games 2018

40 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeff Rab says:

    This is “essentially” an excellent question! Times like these concentrate power and influence in the hands of a few who decide for many. Some things most can agree are essential….food, water, clothing, shelter….but in other things, what’s essential to one person is of no value to someone else. These become dangerous times, and little of the danger has to do with COVID. Government power grabs are 100%, most definitely, NOT essential.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree. And unfortunately when it comes to border officials you are guilty until proven innocent at the best of times. There is no question that Megan, as a high performance athlete , should have been able to enter. Many other athletes have gone to competitions in the US in recent months but this particular official had a burr in his shorts about it. Thanks for your comment Jeff.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Staying safe has to be the top priority 🙏 ❤

    Like

  3. I agree with everyone, extremely frustrating. I guess being an Olympian you would face challenges all the time, it would be good if they could do live internet fed performances from their area & be scored accordingly. Hopefully good will come of it somewhere down the line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree and as for the situation in Tokyo…..I am still unsure that this is a good idea. Megan is a talented young woman and there will be other Olympics that will not be so high risk due to Covid.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Emma Cownie says:

    Being turned away at the border must have been very frustrating but I am inclined to agree with you it may well be a blessing in disguise for Megan.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So very frustrating!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kitty Baker says:

    An yet several eventers travelled to Kentucky for Land Rover 4*&5*, and Tina Irwin was able to make the trip to Tryon. Why the discrepancy? This is a loss to Canadian equestrian sport.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree! I am glad Tina was able to get to Tryon. She and Jaimey crossed the border about 10 minutes before Megan arrived there. But they had a different officer. The one Megan got was just in that frame of mind that he was not going to let her go through I guess.

      Like

  7. Wow, this must have been so frustrating for her. I do hope that there will be some sort of silver lining in this story that she will see in time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I think this Olympics will be a very different experience for the athletes with all the restrictions and no crowds to cheer them on or even clap for them. Megan is a young woman and there will be other Olympics in her future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lori Bell says:

        Only the high performance athletes can cross the border. Not owners or grooms. Jaimey and Tina are both listed by EC as high performance athletes. So, rightly or wrongly, they could cross. This has been the case all along. As a listed high performance athlete, I could have crossed the border to go to Florida last December. But my husband could not.

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        1. anne leueen says:

          Good to have this clarified .

          Like

      2. Yes, like everything else, nothing is quite normal. Hopefully there will be another opportunity for her!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          She is a young woman and I am sure there will be other opportunities in the years to come.

          Like

  8. Though everything is a suffering in its own way for the bearer, I think this is the time for all of us to stay indoors and be safe as the virus is taking more lives now than before. I feel so.

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    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree with you Subbashini. But the Olympics are going ahead it seems. For a professional rider getting to compete at Olympics is something that puts them in an elite category and they can charge more for doing clinics and lessons. So there is a real difference to a riders professional career if they are an Olympian. Megan is already an Olympian so for her Tokyo may not make a huge difference and she may be safer not going to Tokyo.

      Like

  9. David says:

    At first glance, it sounds like Megan’s entry was at the discretion of the customs officer at the border. He decided Megan’s entry was non-essential. When you are left “at the officer’s discretion,” certainly another officer could have admitted her. There is even the possibility of the same officer approving entry for a different rider and crew. The inconsistency is the thing that drives everyone bonkers, especially for those who are refused entry.

    Patrice, a French showjumper, my daughters are friends with, said it’s difficult to cross borders in the EU, or go from one town to another. Anytime you travel with your horse(s) there, you need to be fully documented. Not only for your horses, but for yourself too. Patrice has said she has dealt with more frowning police officers than ever before. They frown more than the most-irritable FEI official, looking at her documentation then looking at her. They ignore the horse(s). During the EHV quarantine, Patrice said she was able to move more freely with her horses than anytime during a COVID lockdown.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are right about the officer’s discretion. There was another Canadian rider, Tina Irwin and her husband Jaimey, who went through the border 10 minutes before Megan and they got a different official and they went on and Tina competed in Tryon.

      Like

  10. Anne Sandler says:

    So many worldwide have been negatively affected by the pandemic. The only thing we can do is look forward and hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Liz says:

    The real disappointment is that Tina Irwin, in exactly the same situation as Megan, was allowed to cross the border and proceed to Tryon. Of course, it was not disappointing for Tina, who did very well and achieved qualifying scores. But Megan must be thinking it’s very unfair. Equestrian Canada will need to look at this situation very closely, as Megan did everything right and was yet denied a chance to compete in Tryon. The qualifying criteria could not be met for Megan, through no real fault of her own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree and the tricky thing is that if you raise too much of a rumpus you can get flagged and banned from the US for more than a year.

      Like

    2. Lori Bell says:

      Unfortunately not the same situation. High performance athletes listed by their national federation can cross. Always have been able to since this all started. But you can’t take owners, grooms, husbands etc. ONLY the athletes. Jaimey and Tina are both listed hp athletes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. anne leueen says:

        I spoke with Megan and she told me that the two other people with her said they would go back so she could continue. But the officer held the opinion that Canadian athletes should qualify for the Olympics in Canada not the US. As he could not be moved from this they turned around .

        Like

  12. Catherine Mcpherson says:

    Hopefully Megan will have another opportunity to represent our country. With Japan in the third wave with only 1% of the population vaccinated all the qualifying and dreams of Olympics may be postponed yet again. I have to agree with Robert Dover who suggested in a post that perhaps defer the summer games to 2022, as we did at one time have summer and winter in the same year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree Catherine! With the athletes not required to have had vaccinations it could be the mother of all superspreaders!

      Like

  13. NY a year ago allowed big stores to be open. However no items were off limits. I don’t understand why they would ban the selling of craft items and books. Those would help people stay home and isolating. Home improvement stores did well as everyone seemed to use their time doing projects around the house.

    Like

    1. anne leueen says:

      I understand your point of view and several people here have pointed out that with kids home as schools are closed crafts and books are more important than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Odd she was denied on this side of the border when it’s your side who closed the border. Which state did she try to cross through ? Michigan has had high numbers of Covid cases. That may make sense if it was through there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I’m not sure which State she was entering. It may have been New York. But her destination was Tryon North Carolina.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know Ontario has a lot of cases right now. If it was NY that may be why. You have to quarantine from those places with high numbers. I have to fill out a form everyday at work and one question is did I leave the state.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. KShai1715 says:

    That’s really very sad. You would think an Olynpic contender would be able to get some kind of special permission from the Canadian government.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      She was refused entry by a US official not the Canadians. And she had letters from the Canadian Equestrian Federation as well as rhe US Equestrian Federation. But the American official at the border did not think her reasons for entry were “essential:. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

  16. kinge says:

    Sorry for Megan not being essential, the Tokyo lockdown is definitely a relief sigh and I’m sure Megan will participate in the next scheduled Olympics. Sad though having your fate decided by the border patrol in the case of the US-Canada border. We are having the same Struggles here even within the country’s border.

    Like

    1. anne leueen says:

      I think Tokyo is in difficulty and I wish it could be postponed but I doubt it will be.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kinge says:

        Must be tough, feel comforted

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Even if you have stayed healthy during the pandemic, COVID19 has caused disappointment, distress and suffering in so many other ways. I don’t know what the right answers are either, but I am also sorry for what Megan and her team experienced.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is a time fraught with difficulties and disappointments. Thanks for your sympathy.

      Like

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