Rockland County declares state of emergency over measles outbreak


Rockland County Executive Ed Day has declared a state of emergency that bars anyone who is not immunized against measles from being in public places until they receive an MMR vaccine. Likewise, a bill in the state Legislature would eliminate non-medical exemptions for vaccinations in New York. The current measles outbreak in downstate New York is the most severe in decades, caused in part because of an anti-vaccination movement by some parents.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day declared a countywide state of emergency this week because of an ongoing measles outbreak. Beginning at midnight on Wednesday, anyone who is under 18 years of age and unvaccinated against the measles will be barred from public places.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, the sponsor of a bill (S.2994) that would end all non-medical exemptions for vaccination sin New York, said the recent outbreak of measles, mostly in pockets of New York City and its suburbs, is “personal” to him as a parent.

“Twenty years ago, measles were virtually eradicated from the United States. Today, New York is facing a state of emergency with its worst measles outbreak in four decades,” Hoylman said. “Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children put the health and safety of every other vulnerable New Yorker at risk.

“As the parent of two young kids, this is personal for me. It’s time for New York to follow the lead of California and confront this public health crisis head-on … We can’t afford to wait a minute longer.”

The bill is sponsored in the Assembly (A.2371) by Jeffrey Dinowitz.

Over the past four months, there have been 214 cases of the disease confirmed in Brooklyn and Queens as well as 156 cases in Rockland County with the outbreak being more prominent in the Orthodox Jewish community, according to the New York City Health Department and local media reports.

Currently, the law requires for all children to receive vaccines for polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, HiB, hepatitis B, and varicella. However, parents can refuse the childhood immunization if it goes against their “genuine and sincere religious belief.”

The Hoylman-Dinowitz bill would eliminate that option.

Meanwhile, the Rockland County emergency declaration is an extraordinary measure to try to slow the spread of the diseases.

“Every action we have taken since the beginning of this outbreak has been designed to maximize vaccinations and minimize exposures. We are taking the next step in that endeavor today,” said County Executive Day. “This is an opportunity for everyone in our community to do the right thing for their neighbors and come together. We must do everything in our power to end this outbreak and protect the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and that of children too young to be vaccinated.”

Under the emergency declaration, public places are defined as a place where more than 10 persons are intended to congregate for purposes such as civic, governmental, social, or religious functions, or for recreation or shopping, or for food or drink consumption, or awaiting transportation, or for daycare or educational purposes, or for medical treatment.

Buses and trains are also included in the quarantine.

Day said that local health inspectors have met resistance from those they are trying to protect. They have been hung up on or told not to call again. They have also been turned away from the homes of infected persons.

“This type of response is unacceptable and irresponsible. It endangers the health and well-being of others and displays a shocking lack of responsibility and concern for others in our community,” Day said.

Under the state of emergency, police will not be patrolling or asking for vaccination records but those found to be in violation will be referred to the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office.