US borders with Canada and Mexico to remain shut until March 21, marking full year of closures

The Department of Homeland Security announced via tweet Friday that the U.S., Canada and Mexico have agreed to keep their land borders shut down through at least March 21.

“To protect our citizens and prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are extending the restrictions on non-essential travel at our land borders through March 21,” the DHS tweet read. We are also working to ensure essential trade and travel remain open.”

March 21 marks the one-year anniversary of the initial border closures, which came as the coronavirus pandemic gained steam in the United States. The closures, which apply to all land and sea borders, have been extended every month since. Technically, Americans can still fly to either country, though Canada has made that option more difficult, as well. 

“These measures will last in place as long as we feel that they need to last,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when the border closures were first announced. In October, he reiterated that point, saying his country’s southern border would not reopen until the U.S. got its COVID case numbers under control.

Since then, Canada has tightened restrictions further, requiring people entering from the U.S. to prove they are traveling for an essential purpose and to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. And the country began requiring a negative COVID-19 test for anyone arriving by air.

To date, 28.1 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 500,000 have died, according to USA TODAY data.

The number of cases in the U.S. has fallen since a spike in early January largely attributed to holiday gatherings. 

The United States is reporting fewer than 500,000 new coronavirus cases a week, coming back to a level not seen since late October, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.

The 489,902 cases reported in the week ending Sunday are less than one-third the rate of the peak seen in July. However, it’s also more than double the pace of new cases seen since the last surge began.

The United States reported 13,106 deaths from COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday, with an average of 78 Americans dying every hour. At its worst last month, the nation was reporting 140 deaths an hour.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects that 589,197 Americans will have died by the end of May. The good news is the institute projects that deaths could drop to fewer than 500 per day by then, and the number could be even lower if Americans are vigilant about wearing masks, which are now required on federal land (including national parks) and on public transit, including commercial airlines, trains and buses. 

By way of comparison, Canada, which has had a cumulative total number of 843,301 cases and 21,630 deaths per the World Health Organization, has had fewer than 30,000 new cases and under 1,000 deaths per week in February.

The WHO found that Mexico, which has had over 2 million cases overall, is also tracking downward with fewer than 75,000 new cases per week in February. But its fatality rate has remained at more than 7,500 deaths per week this month, adding to a cumulative total of 179,797.

Contributing: Ken Alltucker, John Bacon, Jordan Culver and Michael Stucka, USA TODAY

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