COVID-19 surge part of the 'new normal' on Canada-U.S. border

A surge of COVID-19 cases is being reported across the New Brunswick border, in Maine.

Throughout May, the state has recorded one of the highest virus rates per-capita in the United States. A wave of the virus is sweeping across several New England states.

Maine’s COVID-19 cases have increased 96 per cent from the average recorded two weeks ago. COVID-19 deaths in the state have increased by 952 per cent within that same two-week period.

At least eight schools in Maine have returned to remote learning, with masking once again required at several schools that have remained open.

Previously throughout the pandemic, spikes of COVID-19 stateside have caused concern in border communities.

In early April, several pandemic restrictions at Canadian land borders were lifted allowing for an easier flow of traffic between both countries.

While some residents around St. Stephen, N.B., made the decision months ago to stay on this side of the border, the rising case count in Maine hasn’t discouraged others from going to Calais.

“I do put my mask on more often over there, even though I don’t know if it will help me at all,” said Charlie Vukelic, who often makes the trip for cheaper U.S. gas prices.

Other Canadian residents said their level of vigilance is the same in both countries.

“I want to be cautious and smart either way, whether I’m here or there,” said Deanna Valcarras.

“Whether that’s wearing a mask or staying away from people in close proximity, it’s still going to be a priority.”

Judy and Yaakov Cohn arrived at the St. Stephen land border early Thursday afternoon for a two-week trip across the Maritime region.

The Massachusetts couple said they were looking forward to vacationing in a region where the COVID-19 was more stable.

“It was one of the reasons we didn’t stay in the states,” said Yaakov.

A two year absence of U.S. summer visitors has impacted many Canadian tourism operators.

Vukelic, who owns a bed and breakfast in St. Stephen, was hopeful the upcoming summer season would be a stronger year for his location near the border.

“We ran it a little bit last year when things opened, and it seemed to work,” he said.