The U.S. border crossing is seen on Aug. 9, in Lacolle, Quebec, south of Montreal. Canada on that day lifted its prohibition on vaccinated Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation or visit, but the United States is keeping its restrictions on crossing the border from Canada in place.The U.S. border crossing is seen on Aug. 9, in Lacolle, Quebec, south of Montreal. Canada on that day lifted its prohibition on vaccinated Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation or visit, but the United States is keeping its restrictions on crossing the border from Canada in place. Credit: Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press via AP

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing aticles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

It is confounding that the Biden administration continues to bar vaccinated Canadians from driving across the border into the United States while it plans to allow vaccinated travelers from other countries, with proof of a negative COVID test in the prior three days, to arrive here by airplane beginning next month.

This makes no scientific sense.

If travelers can show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and a negative COVID test at the airport, they can do the same at a land border crossing station.

Beginning on Aug. 9, Canada allowed vaccinated travelers with proof of a recent negative COVID test to drive across the border from the U.S. It is also illogical that the U.S. has not reciprocated with a similar policy.

The borders with Canada and Mexico were closed in March 2020 as the COVID pandemic worsened. Crossings from Canada into the U.S. dropped 90 percent from June 2019 to June 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s taken a big toll on Maine’s border communities, tourism economy and other industries.

The vaccination rate in Canada is now higher than it is in the United States. In Canada, 72 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the highest rates in the world. By contrast, 56 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, although many northern border states, especially those in the northeastern U.S., have a higher COVID vaccination rate.

Maine’s congressional delegation along with Gov. Janet Mills have been asking for months for clarification from federal officials on why Canadians are still barred from crossing into the U.S. for non-essential travel. The question became even more relevant after the Sept. 20 announcement about easing restrictions on international air travel into the U.S.

“It simply makes no sense to allow vaccinated air travelers to come to the U.S. but not allow vaccinated Canadians to drive across the northern border,” Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement to the Bangor Daily News editorial board. “It is even more frustrating now that vaccinated Canadians may enter the U.S. by air but not by land.

“I have repeatedly advocated for the U.S. to loosen its border restrictions,” she added. “Canadian officials began allowing fully vaccinated Americans to enter their country more than a month ago. It is past time for the U.S. to reciprocate with similar requirements and safeguards.”

Sen. Angus King shared similar sentiments in a letter to President Joe Biden after the Sept. 20 air travel announcement.

“While I applaud this decision, which will strengthen our nation’s economy while protecting our people from the lingering threat of COVID-19,” King wrote. “I urge you to also extend this logic to allow fully vaccinated Canadians who meet the same criteria to travel across the U.S.-Canada border by car.”

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked why the Canadian border restrictions have so far been left in place.

“Again, it’s determined by our public health officials,” she said in response to a question about why a Canadian would be allowed to fly from Vancouver to Seattle but not drive across the border. “And our objective, of course, is to return to overland travel, just like we’re working toward returning to international travel. But we leave it to them to make that determination.”

Again, we and others ask, from a public health perspective, how Canadians driving across the border are different from those who may fly here.

When we asked the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday for an explanation of continuing to bar Canadians from crossing the border, we were sent links to a series of tweets.

“To minimize the spread of  #COVID19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through October 21, while continuing to ensure the flow of essential trade and travel,” said one, which was posted on Sept. 21.

“In coordination with public health and medical experts, DHS continues working closely with its partners across the United States and internationally to determine how to safely and sustainably resume normal travel,” said another.

These are not explanations. Absent a reasonable, public health-based answer to this question, the northern border should be opened to qualified travelers at the same time that international travelers are allowed to fly to the U.S.

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...