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Border will be closed another month

Cars enter the U.S. from Canada. (Provided photo — Press-Republican)

The U.S.-Canada border closure has been extended for a 13th month as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security made it official Thursday morning on Twitter: “To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and in coordination with our partners in Canada and Mexico, the United States is extending the restrictions on non-essential travel at our land borders through April 21, while ensuring continued flows of essential trade and travel.”

In a follow-up tweet, DHS wrote, “Informed by science and public health guidance, we will work with our counterparts to identify an approach to easing restrictions when conditions permit and with the protection of our citizens from COVID-19 at the forefront of our minds.”

That came four days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed the idea of the border reopening for nonessential travel anytime soon.

“We’re all eager to be able to travel again,” Trudeau said Monday at a news conference in Ottawa, as reported by the Canadian Press. “But I think we’re all going to wait patiently until such time as the health situation allows us to loosen border restrictions internationally. That’ll be eventually, but not for today.”

On Sunday, March 21, it will have been exactly a year since the borders between the neighboring nations was shut down for non-essential travel. This is the 12th one-month extension since then. Crossings continue for trade and commuting for work and school, but not for personal travel.

Cross-border tourism is a major part of the economy of places such as New York’s North Country, but it has been nullified for a year. In the Adirondacks, at least, that was more than made up for by a rise in tourism by Americans. Tourism industry officials have said rubber-tire destinations rose in popularity to replace people’s airplane travel plans.

Border crossings have been quiet. Personal car travel at the crossing at Champlain, New York — the main one between Montreal and the Interstate 87 corridor to Plattsburgh and New York City — has dropped 97% over the last year, North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said Wednesday in a news conference with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., as reported by the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh.

Douglas and the North Country’s U.S. representative, Elise Stefanik, have long pushed for a plan to reopen the border incrementally, based on COVID-19 metrics. That might mean, for instance, that people who have been vaccinated can cross to visit family or friends. Douglas and Gillibrand both said they were glad new U.S. President Joe Biden directed his cabinet to work with Canadian officials on such a plan, but Douglas suspected Canada might not be ready for that yet since its vaccine rollout has been slower than the U.S.’s.

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