BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and an international group of leaders have sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting that the border between the two countries be reopened immediately.

The letter sent Friday, July 23, comes days after the U.S. extended the closure of its border to nonessential travel until Aug. 21. That's nearly two weeks later than Canada is due to begin letting in fully vaccinated Americans. Nonessential travel between the neighboring nations has been shut down since March 2020 as a precautionary measure to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Burgum is joined on the letter by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. The leaders noted the strong economic and cultural connections between the two countries and called for an end to "unnecessary delays" in reopening the 5,525-mile border.

“As we continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and work together on joint initiatives to provide vaccinations to more and more of our citizens every day, the time has come to allow our citizens to move safely and securely across our shared border,” the leaders wrote. “For the well-being and future prosperity of both our nations, we must embrace personal responsibility by providing vaccinations to citizens seeking the vaccine, reduce mitigations that cause economic harm and encourage travel for commerce and tourism. “

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Though not a signatory on the letter, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has also expressed dismay over the border closure's extension.

The delays to a reopening of the border come as the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 preys on unvaccinated Americans. Health experts say North Dakota could suffer another outbreak of the coronavirus if residents continue to forgo vaccination.