Starting at midnight, anyone who is under 18 and not vaccinated against the measles was banned from public places. This ban will last until the declaration expires in 30 days or until people are vaccinated. Children with medical exemptions are not included in the ban.
“Parents will be held accountable if they are found to be in violation of the state of emergency and the focus of this effort is on the parents of these children,” Day said. “We are urging them, once again, now with the authority of law, to get your children vaccinated.”
Day said 72.9 percent of children between the ages of 1 to 18 in Rockland County were fully vaccinated against measles, according to the New York State immunization information system. Herd immunity is effective at 95 percent, according to health officials.
The county will be disseminating signs explaining the ban to be posted in public areas included in the ban.
Although Rockland‘s outbreak has primarily affected members of the Orthodox Jewish community, Day said there’s no religious exemption. He said he has met with community leaders and stakeholders who supported the measures the county has taken to contain the outbreak.
“I’m very concerned about it because there are folks in this community, in this county, who will use this as an opportunity to be prejudiced,” said Gary Siepser, the CEO of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County. “I’m very concerned at how people will be viewed and what could happen when people go into the mall or try to go into Target or wherever they want to go shopping and be out. That’s my concern.”
County health officials will be holding a free MMR vaccination clinic Wednesday between 1 and 3 p.m. at the Robert L. Yeager Health Complex, 50 Sanatorium Road, on the second floor of building A. The county plans to hold more clinics for residents.
Day cited pockets of resistance the county has begun to encounter in his declaration, as well as the upcoming major religious holidays of Easter and Passover. The county has decided to only make a single MMR mandatory in the emergency declaration.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of how this outbreak started, when we saw people gathered together and then fall ill last fall,” Day said. “We want everyone to enjoy their friends and families, something quite difficult with the specter of measles hanging over their heads.”
Noncompliance will carry penalties of six months in jail or a $500 fine, although Day said law enforcement would not be deployed at any location seeking proof of vaccination. If a person is found to be in violation, the case would be referred to the county District Attorney’s office.
The announcement comes days after county health officials announced six new exposure sites in Spring Valley and Monsey, including Target in Spring Valley Marketplace, All Fresh Supermarket, Atrium Plaza, Designer’s Spot, TOR bus loop 2 Eastbound and International Taxi.
State health officials declined to declare a state of emergency in Rockland last month after measles got national attention due to an outbreak and emergency declaration in Washington state. Officials said they were holding regular emergency preparedness calls with local health departments since October after activating its incident management system. At the time there were 137 total measles cases in the county.
Rockland‘s exposure sites have mostly been in Monsey or Spring Valley, and anti-vaccination advocates last fall used a phone hotline called Akeres HaBayis to tell parents to continue sending their children to school.
Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder, D-Spring Valley, said he reserved comment until he’s heard more details. He was unaware of the planned state of emergency until a press announcement was issued.
“Overall, I think that people should be mindful about this terrible disease,” said Wieder, who is Hasidic. “I think there is a false perception that people in the Orthodox Jewish community are not vaccinated. That’s not the case. I’m vaccinated. All my children are vaccinated.”
“It’s not something that I’ve seen before in my professional experience,” said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, a top public-health officer in Seattle, Washington.
Enforcing a community-wide ban on access to public places presents a variety of challenges, experts said, citing the difficulty in monitoring the movements of a select group.
This ban supersedes an order issued Dec. 5 by Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert that mandated that schools in the 10952 and 10977 ZIP codes with vaccination rates under 95 percent had to ban unvaccinated children from attending.
Nine yeshivas were fined in November for not reporting unvaccinated students. A federal judge denied a temporary injunction to allow unvaccinated students to return to class at the Green Meadow Waldorf School after parents brought a lawsuit against the county.
In a letter sent out to public school parents late this afternoon, Rockland County BOCES CEO Mary Jean Marsico said that “any individual under 18 and unvaccinated against measles will be barred from public places.”
Marsico says the responsibility for enforcement is on the parents. County health officials are expecting to say that parents and guardians “will be held accountable.”
“Green Meadow Waldorf School remains under the county Department of Health exclusion order that prohibits students who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated for measles from being in attendance at our school,” Larson said.
New York City’s health department has reported 181 measles cases as of March 19. A new outbreak with eight measles cases in New Jersey began earlier this month after an outbreak linked to the one in New York was declared over in January.
The original measles cases in New York and New Jersey in October came from travelers visiting from or traveling home from Israel, which is experiencing a measles outbreak that has affected more than 3,400 people and caused at least two deaths.
Measles has been eliminated in the United States due to high vaccination rates, but pockets of measles outbreaks can break out in un- or under-vaccinated areas due to travelers bringing in measles from outside of the U.S., officials said.