The border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Houlton. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — The government of New Brunswick said Friday that its “Path to Green” program would see enough of its residents vaccinated to allow the international border with Maine to open on July 1.

New Brunswick’s plan to reopen calls for allowing travelers from the Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador on June 7 without need for quarantine or a negative COVID-19 test. Cross-border truckers will also no longer be required to isolate upon arrival.

On July 1, travelers from Maine who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed into New Brunswick with no isolation required. Those with no vaccine traveling from Maine will be allowed to enter and must go through a five-seven-day quarantine period, followed by a COVID-19 test, which must be negative in order to leave isolation.

International travel from all other states than Maine into New Brunswick will still have to follow a 14-day quarantine period upon entry on July 1. All travel restrictions will end by Aug. 2, according to the Path to Green plan.

The move was welcomed by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has been advocating for the immediate opening of the border since March.

“This announcement is an encouraging step toward finally ending the protracted U.S.-Canada border closure, which has taken a severe toll on the many Mainers who have been unable to visit Canadian relatives and small businesses that have lost Canadian customers,” Collins said. “Although the ‘Path to Green’ plan delays opening the border for at least a month, it is welcome news that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for many Maine families and small businesses.”

The reopening between the two borders will come approximately one year and four months after the border originally closed during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The move had a drastic impact on the small border towns in Aroostook and Washington counties, affecting towns economically and splitting up families and loved ones.

Maine has seen some of the highest rates of full vaccination among U.S. states at nearly 55 percent, with the fourth lowest total case count in the country. Roughly 50 percent of New Brunswick citizens have had at least one vaccine shot, and the province has seen some of the lowest case counts among all Canadian provinces.

New Brunswick’s decision follows strong speculation that the United States will end its travel restrictions on its land borders once the current restrictions expire by June 22.

On Thursday, U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told the news website Politico that he expected the U.S. border to reopen on June 22. Cuellar had discussed reopening the border with Troy Miller, the acting commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, following an appropriations hearing for CBP held last week.

Len Saunders, an immigration attorney in the border community in Blaine, Washington, said he had heard from multiple senior CBP officials that the border would also reopen on that date. He shared text messages regarding discussions of a meeting held by CBP officials on Tuesday, May 25, where the opening on June 22 was brought up. The officer in the text messages did not attend the meeting, but had heard the same news regarding the reopening.

“It’s the worst-kept secret,” Saunders said. “Everyone on the front lines is talking about it.”