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Updated: August 23, 2021

Despite Canada's reopening, US extends border closure for Canadians another month

Border crossing at Lubec, Maine Photo / Jim Neuger Cars are shown entering the United States in August 2019 at Lubec, as they come off the bridge from Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada.

While fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been able to cross the border from Maine into Canada since Aug. 9, Canadians won't be able to enter the United States for at least another month.

Citing ongoing concerns about the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Friday that it plans to keep the country's northern and southern borders closed to many types of travel until Sept. 21.

"To minimize the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through September 21, while continuing to ensure the flow of essential trade and travel," the department said in a statement on social media Friday. 

However, the department also signaled that the plan is subject to change, saying, "In coordination with public health and medical experts, DHS continues working closely with its partners across the United States and internationally to determine how to safely and sustainably resume normal travel."

The land border between the United States and Canada was closed on March 21, 2020, at the start of the pandemic, complicating life for families, would-be tourists and businesses, particularly in border towns like Houlton, in Aroostook County.

In June, a group of U.S. lawmakers including U.S. Reps. Jared Golden, D-Maine 2nd District and Chellie Pingree-D-Maine 1st District, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Maorkas calling for the U.S.-Canada border to be fully reopened.

The two-page letter cited Canadian statistics showing that tourists from that country spend an average $19 billion on average in the United States every year. Data from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service shows that Canadians spent $290 million in Maine alone in 2017.

Donna Saucier, executive director of the Fort Kent Chamber of Commerce, told Maine Public that she is disappointed but not surprised by news of the U.S. border closure extension.

"Everyone is related to someone across the river, so we want that to be a little more relaxed so we can enjoy each other's company again," she is quoted as saying. "We're very close here, friendly, cordial, so to not have that interaction every day, we miss it."

Online data from the New York Times show that to date, 51% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That compares to 66% in Canada but only 24% in Mexico.

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