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COVID-19: U.S. Northeast states discourage travel; California rebuffs theme parks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday urged their residents to not travel between the three states as the U.S. Northeast sees a rise in COVID-19 cases, while California said major theme parks including Disneyland would not be opening anytime soon.

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The moves in two of the most populous regions of the United States came during a new surge in coronavirus infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 300,000 more people had died nationwide in 2020 than in a typical year.

The CDC said about two-thirds of those deaths were caused directly by COVID-19 illnesses. The health agency did not provide specific explanations for the rest of the fatalities, but said it expects them to be related to coronavirus.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, all Democrats, in a joint statement urged “all of our residents to avoid unnecessary or non-essential travel between states at this time.”

The governors, however, said they would not attempt to impose quarantines on visitors from neighboring states. New York, an early epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and home to more COVID-19 deaths than any other state, requires travelers from 38 states and two U.S. territories where cases are rising to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania now also meet New York’s criteria for the quarantine requirements, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, but implementing such restrictions would be impractical.

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In California, which uses a complex, color-coded tiered system to determine when each of the state’s 58 counties may reopen, health secretary Mark Ghaly said major theme parks must wait until their home county reaches the lowest rank of the system to reopen.

At the lowest level of the system, daily cases of the coronavirus must number less than one per 100,000 people. In addition to Disneyland, the decision affects Comcast Corp’s Universal Studios, Legoland and Knott’s Berry Farm, which all closed down in mid-March. All four parks are located in Southern California, with both Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County.

“These State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future,” Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, said in a statement.

Disney, which in September announced it was laying off 28,000 employees, mostly at its U.S. theme parks, has pleaded with Governor Gavin Newsom to relax his clampdown.

Ghaly conceded during an afternoon news briefing that Disneyland’s reopening could be far off, with most Southern California counties still stuck in the top two most restrictive tiers of the state’s system.

“We do believe that it is possible. It will require a lot of work, a lot of vigilance,” Ghaly said.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru, Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler