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Canadian Border Reopens To Vaccinated Americans, Visitors In Calais Face 2-Hour Wait Times

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge connecting Canada to the U.S. in Windsor, Ontario, in May. Half of respondents in a poll of Canadians this month by Nanos Research said restrictions on travel across the U.S.-Canada border should not be eliminated until this fall or next year.
Cole Burston
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge connecting Canada to the U.S. in Windsor, Ontario, in May 2020.

The U.S. border with Canada has opened for non-essential travel for the first time since the pandemic began in March of last year.

The closures have severely impacted some businesses in border communities such as Calais and Madawaska, which have seen sales plummet in the absence of Canadian customers.

On Monday, the Canadian government reopened its side of the border to U.S. residents who have been vaccinated and tested negative for COVID-19.

The Canadian government is reporting wait times of two hours at its border crossing in Calais.

Bill Kilby, the manager of Hardwick's Country Store in Calais, says he's seeing lines of about 15 to 20 cars waiting to cross the border into St. Stephen, New Brunswick. He says the additional traffic has been good news for his shop, as many out-of-state residents have stopped in for gas, food and drinks.

But Kilby says he doesn't expect business to return to normal until visitors can flow back-and-forth without additional steps, such as taking a COVID-19 test.

"Until they open it up so the locals can go back and forth, it's not going to be a big boon for us," he says. "But like I said, any car in the parking lot is better than none."

Border delays of 40 minutes are being reported at the border crossing in Houlton. No wait times are being reported in Madawaska.

Aroostook County Administrator Ryan Pelletier says with the American side of the border still closed, the change likely won't help many businesses in border communities. But he says it's important for many families that have been separated for more than a year because of the border closure.

"So this will certainly have that ability, for those people, who haven't been able to see their family for a very long, time, to cross and stay with them and visit with them," Pelletier says. "So, for sure, there are going to be a lot of happy folks being able to do that."

Jeffrey Bennett, with the Maine International Trade Center, says if Canada's border opening is successful, he hopes it will encourage the U.S. to reopen its own border soon.

"The U.S. government will be paying attention and learning lessons from that," he says. "So I think it puts us in a better position to open up our border, as well, if things go smoothly on the Canadian side."

Several public officials in Maine have called on the U.S. government to relax its own border restrictions.

U.S. officials have announced that its border will remain closed to nonessential travel through August 21.