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

HOULTON, Maine — The United States has extended the closure of its land borders with Canada and Mexico for another month, guaranteeing that Canadians will miss all of Maine’s summer tourism season.

The Department of Homeland Security released its decision on Friday, just one day before the current travel ban was set to expire. The travel ban has been renewed on a per-month basis ever since the borders were first closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. has closed its land borders for non-essential international travel since March 2020. The closure of the U.S.-Canada border was jointly renewed for the first 16 months, but Canada reopened its borders on Aug. 9 for fully vaccinated Americans who present a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their trip.

Canadians may fly to the U.S. from one of several designated airports, but land travel remains restricted. Americans with a valid passport may also travel freely to Mexico via land or air.

The tourism industry and a bipartisan group of politicians in Congress have urged the U.S. to reopen. In Maine, Democratic Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree, Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills have all urged a reopening of the land border with Canada.

Prior to the pandemic, Canadian tourists made up a  significant portion of Maine’s summer tourism economy, accounting for about 20 percent of all retail sales. The latest border closure extension means Canadians will miss out on Maine’s summer season for the second straight year.

The announcement comes as the U.S. experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the more contagious delta variant, peaking at more than 250,000 cases recorded on Aug. 16., with most recent daily case counts treading around 150,000 cases. Canada has also experienced an increase of cases in recent weeks, although not as pronounced as the U.S.