Rockland County Declares State Of Emergency Amid Measles Outbreak

March 26, 2019 - 2:10 pm
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NEW CITY, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — Rockland County declared a state of emergency Tuesday over the ongoing measles outbreak.

County Executive Ed Day announced the emergency will take effect at midnight Wednesday and bar any unvaccinated person under 18 from public places until the declaration expires in 30 days or until they receive the MMR vaccination.

Public places include schools, houses of worship and shopping centers.

“I find that I must take this step to protect the public safety of the residents and visitors to Rockland County. I must take this step to protect the infants, infirm, and ill of this County who are unable to be vaccinated against the measles or who are immunocompromised. I must make every effort to protect them,” Day said in his written declaration.

It remains unclear how the ban will be enforced.

The declaration comes as the county prepares for a large number of visitors for Easter and Passover.

Day said there will not be any law enforcement officials demanding to see vaccination records and they are not looking to prosecute anyone over the matter. But, if an unvaccinated person is found to knowingly be violating the ban, they could face up to six months in jail.

The ban will not apply to those documented by a physician to be serologically immune to measles, cannot receive a vaccine due to documented medical reasons or under 6- months-old.

Unvaccinated minors will still be allowed to enter doctor’s offices and family court, but parents or guardians must call ahead to advise the facility before their arrival.

Rockland County has had 151 confirmed cases of measles since October 2018, according to state health officials. It's quickly become New York's longest measles outbreak since the disease was officially eliminated throughout the United States in 2000.

Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled Rockland County could continue to block unvaccinated children from attending school as the area deals with the measles outbreak. The ruling came after parents' requested to let 44 unvaccinated students return to the Green Meadow Waldorf School. 

The case could move from federal court to state court, where Day says Rockland County will continue to defend itself. He notes that just because most cases are among the Orthodox Jewish community, that doesn't mean it won't spread from there.

Health officials say the best way to prevent the disease from spreading is by increasing vaccination rates in the county.