The U.S. won’t be following Canada’s lead at the border.
U.S. government officials announced Wednesday they were extending restrictions on non-essential travel at the land borders between Canada and Mexico for one month, through Aug. 21.
The news comes days after the Canadian government announced it would start allowing vaccinated Americans entry into Canada for non-essential travel on Aug. 9.
The response from local officials who have been pushing for a reopening of the border was both quick and familiar.
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) said in a release, “For months now people and businesses along the border have been strung along month after month holding out hope for the border to reopen. Today’s decision by the Biden administration harms economic recovery and hurts families all across America’s northern border; this is completely unnecessary.
“While the United States does nothing, loved ones remain separated and communities whose economies rely on the cross-border exchange continue to suffer economically. Continuation of this shutdown is illogical given the success of vaccines and counterproductive putting the United States at a disadvantage given Canada’s decision to welcome back vaccinated Americans effective Aug. 9.”
Added U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, “As Canada prepares to further open the border next month, the United States is failing to reciprocate, jeopardizing an already tenuous recovery for thousands of businesses, families, and communities across Upstate New York. It is critical for the United States to level the playing field and create a uniform system, following the science and data, to safely – and finally — reopen the border for those vaccinated, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that happens as swiftly as possible.”
It was unclear Wednesday how, or if, the U.S. decision will affect the Canadian decision.
The U.S. announcement notes that increasing vaccination levels in the United States and Canada have increased and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the COVID-19 risk level in the two countries from “very high” to "high."'
“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary (of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas) 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,'" the announcement said.
At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, both the U.S. and Canadian governments restricted non-essential travel by land between the two countries on the more than 5,500-mile border, although Canadians have been able to fly into the United States with a negative COVID-19 test.
Until the Canadian decision on Monday, the two governments extended the closure every month.
Homeland Security posted a separate announcement Monday restricting entry on the Mexican border. On the southern border U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been going back and forth with ease.
Cross-border trade between the United States and Canada has not been affected by the closure.
The U.S. Travel Association estimates that each month the border is closed costs $1.5 billion. Canadian officials say Canada had about 22 million foreign visitors in 2019 — about 15 million of them from the United States.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.