Citizens and leaders in the United States and Canada should have two common goals in the coming months and, while it may not feel like it, they are very much related.

The first goal should be to continue to keep the spread of COVID-19 under control as best as possible.

This is no easy task, obviously, but there are reasons for both countries to commit beyond the obvious ones involving public health and safety.

The biggest reason involves what should be common goal No. 2 and that's getting the border between the two countries open to more than just essential traffic again.

The border remains vitally important to economy in both countries.

In Niagara County, it represents not only a gateway for tourists but also an engine that drives commerce in various ways.

A closed border has had a negative impact on local tourism and commerce, and it is also proving to be a challenge for local governments as key revenue sources like sales tax and bed tax have declined significantly amid pandemic shutdowns.

In reality, neither country can get border traffic moving again without getting a hold on goal No. 1.

Unfortunately, it appears likely, given present conditions, that the border, which is currently closed to non-essential traffic under an order that is set to expire next week, will remain closed at least through mid-October and perhaps beyond.

There's no reopening the border safely until both countries have a higher level of confidence in the other to control the spread of COVID-19  and prevent cross-border infection.

To say the United States has not had a great track record in this regard in recent months is an understatement.

During a House of Representatives Ways and Means committee hearing last week, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, noted that while the U.S. is home to roughly 5% of the world's population, it has seen 25% of COVID-19-related deaths worldwide.

As of last week, Higgins also noted, recent data showed the number of positive cases per 100,000 population in the United States is seven times higher than it is in Canada.

There have been suggestions of late that infection rates are beginning to decline in recent U.S. "hotspots" while Canada is starting to see upticks in some areas.

That's the way it is with this virus, so we all must continue to take it seriously and do our best to practice social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing until effective treatments and vaccines come along.

This is not an American issue or a Canadian issue. It is a global phenomenon, requiring an "all hands on deck" commitment.

While our two countries may disagree on the best approach to tackling various challenges facing each of us and the world, they must be unified when it comes to conquering COVID-19, not just for the health and public safety benefits but for the mutual financial benefits. We need to rid ourselves of this virus and get our economy rolling again.

An open border between the U.S. and Canada would be a welcome sign of relief and recovery.

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