On March 23, 2020, we wrote about the impact of the global pandemic on travel between the United States and neighboring countries, in COVID-19: How Does the Outbreak Affect Travel Between the United States and Mexico or Canada?  We explained that the US, Mexican and Canadian governments had agreed to close their contiguous borders between March 20 and April 20, 2020, and then reassess whether borders should be reopened depending on the progress of the pandemic.

Today, Robert McGowan, Chief of Staff of the US Centers for Disease Control, announced that border closures will remain in effect for another 30 days, until May 20, 2020, and again be reassessed at that time.  The closure extensions contain the same exceptions as the earlier order, for the following classes of people:

  • US citizens and permanent residents and their immediate family
  • US military personnel and their immediate family
  • Non-Canadians and non-Mexicans who seek admission with valid visas or under the Visa Waiver Program
  • Those who are deemed an exception in the interest of law enforcement, public safety, public health, or for humanitarian reasons

Citing projections for COVID-19 cases and mortality rates in all three countries, the CDC said, “The determinations made in support of the [prior] Order remain correct and should continue in place.”

For the United States, CDC projected that, although the disease is currently concentrated on the East and West coasts, Gulf coasts, and Great Lakes regions, “in the coming months, most of the U.S. will be exposed to COVID-19.”  The agency also cites the need to protect localities near both the southern and the northern borders, which have “not yet experienced widespread community transmission.”

For Canada, the CDC cited projections by the Public Health Agency of Canada of “a 2.5% infection rate … 940,000 people with infections, 73,000 hospitalizations, and 23,000 people requiring intensive care over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For Mexico, the CDC based projections on World Health Organization reporting from China, which “assumes a 0.2% infection rate with 250,656 infected people during the acceleration phase of the pandemic,” including 14% percent (25,564) who will need hospitalization and 6% (10,528) who will require intensive care.

Although production and distribution of COVID-19 rapid testing kits has ramped up since the initial border closure order of March 20, the CDC emphasized that those kits are still not widely available and, when they are, they should be used in high-priority locations, including hospitals, and not at border ports of entry.