America’s borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed for another month.
The Department of Homeland Security announced via tweet Tuesday that the U.S., Canada and Mexico have agreed to keep the borders closed through at least Feb. 21 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen.
“In order to continue to prevent the spread of #COVID, the US, Mexico, Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Feb. 21,” the DHS tweet said. “We are working closely with Mexico & Canada to keep essential trade & travel open while also protecting our citizens from the virus.”
Tuesday’s border closure extension is the final one issued by the Trump administration. In a subsequent tweet, DHS noted that it could be subject to further review by President-elect Joe Biden and his pick to head the agency, Alejandro Mayorkas.
Factors that may warrant further review include: the degree of health risk indicated in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel health notices for Canada and Mexico, which are currently at the agency’s highest threat level of 4; public health conditions and travel restrictions in border localities; and Customs and Border Protection staffing levels to conduct necessary entry port operations based on projected increase in traffic volumes.
The three countries agreed to close their borders to all but essential traffic beginning March 21 and have extended the closures one month at a time since. Should the three countries extend their orders again next month, the borders will have been closed for a full year.
That’s not too far-fetched considering the U.S. continues to set new COVID-19 death records even as Americans roll up their sleeves to receive their first of two vaccine injections.
During the past week, a record 22,676 people died from COVID-19, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. That’s more Americans dying every day than the 2,977 victims on Sept. 11, 2001. The country has also reported in excess of 200,000 new cases per day during that period.
To date, the U.S. has recorded more than 23 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 384,794 deaths.
By way of comparison, Mexico has reported nearly 1.6 million cases and 136,917 deaths while Canada has had more than 686,000 cases and 17,404 deaths.
The border closures apply to all land and sea borders. Technically, Americans can still fly to either country, though Canada has made that option more difficult, as well.
According to the official website for the Government of Canada, travelers entering from the U.S. must prove they are traveling for an essential purpose, along with not presenting COVID-19 symptoms and planning to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. And as of Jan. 7, the country is now requiring a negative COVID test for anyone arriving by air.
Mexico is now bracing for new COVID spikes – and possibly, new lockdowns – as a result of higher-than-anticipated holiday travel.
Quintana Roo state, the Mexican state that is home to Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Tulum, received 961,000 tourists over the holidays – nearly half of which came from the U.S. That number is down only 25% from the year before. In December, Quintana Roo was averaging 460 air arrivals and departures a day compared with an average of 500 before the pandemic, Tourism Secretary Marisol Vanegas Pérez told the Associated Press.
Vanegas said the state health department aggressively traces any reported infections. Still, there are worrisome signs. The positivity rate on coronavirus tests in the state is nearly 50%, and the weekly number of COVID-19 deaths quadrupled from the week before Christmas to the week after, according to federal government data.
Contributing: Ken Alltucker
Source: USA TODAY
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