Many hoped that with vaccinations having been ramped up over the past couple of months that the U.S./Canada border would open sooner than later. Once again, however, the border closure has been extended, at least for another month.
The closure marks the thirteenth extension for all but essential trade and travel between the two countries, all in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The U.S. and Canada first agreed to close the border during the beginning stages of the pandemic in March 2020.
A tweet from Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair last week read, “We will continue to base our decision on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe from #COVID-19.”
Earlier in the month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to U.S. travelers, urging them to avoid Canada for now, even if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The reason, the CDC says, is because of COVID-19 variants that are circulating around in Canada.
The CDC noted that even fully vaccinated travelers are at risk of getting and spreading the virus variants. Those variants, it says, are more easily transmitted.
In Maine, COVID-19 vaccinations have been available to all residents aged 16 and older since the beginning days in April.
As of April 25, just over 55 percent of eligible Maine residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Washington County leads Maine’s 11 rural counties in terms of people vaccinated, with 46.75 percent of the population fully vaccinated. Maine’s overall vaccination rates are among the highest in the nation, with 42.47 percent fully vaccinated as of Monday, April 26.
In New Brunswick, vaccination rates are much lower. Canada is still vaccinating only those 65 and older, along with front-line workers, such as medical personnel. Of those eligible people, only 25 percent have had at least one dose. Any New Brunswicker who wants a vaccine will be able to get a first dose by the end of June, a government website reports.
Calais City Manager Mike Ellis commented on the impact – both economically and socially – the border closure has had on the local community. He recognizes the struggle Calais businesses have endured due to the border closure, yet praises their perseverance and creativity.
“The local businesses that have managed to survive the pandemic-driven decrease in sales are doing an outstanding job adapting to the shift in the marketplace by implementing new and creative ways to conduct business. I also feel that the members of the community have made a conscious effort to support area businesses and shop local during this difficult time for everyone,” he said.
Still, Ellis went on further, calling the social impact, specifically to area families, being “heartbreaking.” “There are so many lost connections due to the inability to cross the border to see relatives, friends, and loved ones where Zoom and Snapchat simply won’t cut it, particularly those on both sides of the border who struggle to see family members going through illness or hardship and need in-person comfort and support.
“Both communities have had to endure so much in the past year, it is my sincere hope that we won’t have to endure the border closure and lost connections to our friends and loved ones across the river much longer.”