The United States has extended border restrictions on nonessential travel yet again as COVID-19 infections rise in every state.
U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed through Aug. 21, according to documents to be published in the Federal Register. The previous U.S. border restrictions were set to end Thursday.
The extensions come on the heels of Canada’s Monday announcement that it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents Aug. 9, with plans to allow fully vaccinated travelers from any country on Sept. 7.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday: “Any decisions about resuming travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. … I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”
How long have the borders been closed?
The Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts, first closed the United States’ borders to leisure travelers in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have been extended on a monthly basis ever since.
Restrictions on entry into the U.S. by land and ferry travel are extended until 11:59 p.m. Aug. 21, according to the notices.
People from Canada and Mexico have been allowed to fly into the U.S. with proof of a negative coronavirus test or recovery from COVID-19 – a requirement before boarding any international flight to the U.S. that went into effect in January.
Why is the US extending border restrictions?
The DHS said the restrictions have been extended to decrease the spread of COVID-19, including the highly contagious delta variant.
“DHS is in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican counterparts to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably,” DHS said in a statement provided Wednesday by spokesperson Angelo Fernández.
On June 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention downgraded COVID-19 travel alert levels for Mexico and Canada from level 4 or “very high” to level 3 or “high” recognizing that conditions, while still unsafe, are improving, the DHS said in the notice.
Travel industry reacts
Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association trade group, urged the Biden administration to determine a date and plan “as quickly as possible” to welcome Canadian visitors at U.S. land borders.
“Canada made the right call in releasing a timeline for vaccinated Americans to cross the land border and visit, and it is past time that the U.S. reciprocates,” Barnes said in a Wednesday statement. “There is no difference between a fully vaccinated Canadian and a fully vaccinated American.”
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Wednesday he understood that the Biden administration is trying to put safety first but believes easing border restrictions would help the world’s pandemic recovery.
“It does seem that the data and the science are pretty clear: We have similar vaccination rates, similar case rates. We have similar variants,’’ Kirby said during an interview on CNBC. “We’re not going to prevent the delta variant from coming to the United States by closing those borders because it’s already here.’’
Contributing: The Associated Press