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U.S.-Canada Border Remains Closed

BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) - It appears the U.S.-Canada border closure to non-essential travelers will be extended again.

CBC is reporting that the decision will mean the border closure will go through Oct. 21, while Reuters Canada says the Canadian government will extend the shutdown at least until after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in late November.

The border has been closed since late March, although commercial vehicles are allowed to cross, as are individuals who qualify as essential for medical, educational or work reasons.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) noted the economic devastation to Western New York families and business, and blamed President Donald Trump's handling of COVID-19 for Canada's continuing closure of the border.

“This Administration has to understand that we won’t have a healthy economy until we have a healthy country and that starts with taking this virus seriously," Higgins said. "We miss the free flow of people across the border and the mutual benefits it brings to our neighboring countries, but due to President Trump’s irresponsible and chaotic handling of COVID-19, we respect and understand Canada’s position.”

Higgins said Canada averages less than 800 new COVID-19 cases a day, a rate that is currently higher than in previous weeks, while the United States is currently seeing around 40,000 new cases daily. He also said Americans represent 25% of COVID-19 deaths globally, while being only 5% of the population.

Higgins' comments come as Ontario Premier Doug Ford is promising his province will have the highest fines in the country for people who violate public health guidelines for social gatherings.

Ontario is preparing to introduce measures that would lower the number of people allowed at social gatherings, though Ford did not say what the new limit will be. Social gatherings are currently restricted to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

Ford also pledged to increase the province's testing capacity by allowing pharmacies across Ontario to conduct COVID-19 tests. Hot spots continue in the Toronto and Peel regions, as well as in Ottawa, where the bulk of new cases are being reported.

The Canadian Press contributed to this story.