WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Despite Canada announcing earlier this week the border would reopen to fully vaccinated Americans on August 9, the U.S. will keep the border closed until at least August 21, according to a notice from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 between the United States and Canada poses an ongoing 'specific threat to human life or national interests,'" a pending Federal Register notice says.
In response to the news of the continued border closure, members of the Maine Delegation wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, urging the Biden administration to reconsider.
In the letter, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden highlight the effects the border closure has on Maine businesses and families, saying particularly during the busy tourism season, Maine economies depend on tourism and trade with Canadian communities.
“If we do not reciprocate our neighbor’s step, Maine communities will continue to feel the financial harm while Canadian cities and towns see an economic boom from Americans traveling to their country,” they wrote.
Gov. Janet Mills also voiced her frustrations over the decision on Wednesday and echoed the Delegation’s concerns that the continued closure negatively impacts the Maine economy and way of life.
“The decision to prolong the border closure on our end only diminishes these ties, hurts local economies, and separates families, particularly in northern and eastern Maine, whose relatives in Canada will be unable to travel here to see their loved ones,” Mills said in a statement.
Collins, King, Pingree, and Golden, as well as Mills, say they understand that the health and well-being of Americans amid the ongoing pandemic and rising cases—surged by the Delta variant—“must take precedence.” But they argue with vaccines available and if there are travel guidelines in place like Canada has outlined, the border can be safely reopened.
To cross the Canadian border, Canada says you must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before crossing—with proof of vaccination. You also must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 72 hours of travel.
“This pandemic has costs that cannot be calculated, as countless Americans have not had an ability to have their Canadian family at milestone events such as weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and holidays for well over a year now. It is time to create and implement guidelines that will allow families to come together once again,” the Delegation wrote. “There is no more time to delay; we implore you to quickly develop and implement a plan that will benefit Maine’s economy and our families.”
Read the Delegation’s full letter here:
Mills’ full statement:
“The State of Maine is inextricably bound to our Canadian neighbors. Our ties stretch across our economy, our culture, and our families. The decision to prolong the border closure on our end only diminishes these ties, hurts local economies, and separates families, particularly in northern and eastern Maine, whose relatives in Canada will be unable to travel here to see their loved ones. I share the Federal government’s concern about the spread of COVID-19, but vaccines are now available and Canada’s vaccination rate now exceeds that of the United States. The time has come for the U.S. government to safely open the border.”