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New York county takes 'extremely unusual' step to ban unvaccinated minors from public places amid measles outbreak

Unvaccinated people under the age of 18 are banned from public places in Rockland County, New York, according to John Lyon, director of strategic communications for County Executive Ed Day. The declaration is an effort to contain an outbreak of measles that began in October; 153 cases have been confirmed in the county.

Posted: Mar 28, 2019 5:43 AM


Unvaccinated people under age 18 are banned from public places in Rockland County, New York, as of midnight Wednesday, according to John Lyon, director of strategic communications for County Executive Ed Day.

Day announced the order Tuesday.

The declaration is an effort to contain an outbreak of measles that began in October; 153 cases have been confirmed in the county.

The outbreak began when an unvaccinated resident became infected while visiting Israel and returned with the disease. It has mostly affected observant Jewish neighborhoods.

New York City has reported 214 cases as of Wednesday from the outbreak, also in Orthodox Jewish communities, according to the city department of health.

"We're not punishing the people who are doing the right thing already and following the rules. We just want to encourage everyone to do the right thing so we can stop this outbreak," Rockland County's Lyon said. The step is "extremely unusual. [We] don't believe it's been done anywhere in the country before."

"State law gives health departments authority to broadly implement control measures in response to outbreaks," Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in an email, noting that the CDC provides technical assistance to state and local health departments.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that is prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The CDC recommends that the two-dose vaccine be given first at 12 to 15 months of age and then between ages 4 and 6.

This is the 26th week -- the sixth month -- of the outbreak in Rockland County, according to Lyon, who said it has been the longest outbreak in the United States since before measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

Day said the outbreak will not go on indefinitely. "This is a public health crisis, and it is time to sound the alarm, to ensure that everyone takes proper action to protect themselves and their neighbors; for the health and safety of all of us in Rockland," he said in a news release.

Public places include synagogues, churches, schools, restaurants, stores and public buses. "Public places are defined as: a place where more than 10 persons are intended to congregate," the news release says.

Children who are current with the vaccine schedule but not fully vaccinated against measles because they are not old enough are exempt from the order.

The order does not apply to people who are older than 18 because "we did not want to prevent anyone from going to work," but unvaccinated adults are also encouraged to get vaccinated.

It will be enforced the same way any law is enforced, according to Lyon: During the investigation into when and where an infected individual was exposed, those who are identified as unvaccinated and people in public places will be referred to the district attorney's office.

"The goal is not to prosecute people. We don't want to fine people. We want to encourage people to get vaccinated," he said.

In cases that are referred to the district attorney, Day said the penalty is six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

"Just to be clear, this is not something we're looking to do. The emergency declaration, by law, comes with that assigned. It's the lowest crime there is." He admitted that police officers will not be walking around asking parents for proof of vaccination for their children. He also said this is just to draw attention to make people understand the seriousness of the situation.

Nearly 17,000 vaccinations have been administered in the county during the outbreak.

"As this outbreak has continued, our inspectors have begun to meet resistance from those they are trying to protect. They have been hung up on or told not to call again. They've been told 'we're not discussing this; do not come back' when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations. 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.

The outbreak has mainly been isolated in a couple of communities within Rockland County, which is just north of New York City, but the whole community is at risk, he said, noting that there have been complications among patients, including a premature labor and a handful of hospitalizations.

"Every new confirmed case is a roll of the dice that we'll see more complications. There's a lot that can go wrong with any case."

Statewide, there have been at least 378 cases of measles reported since October.

The CDC has reported 314 cases of measles nationwide this year as of Monday. That number reflects cases reported by state health departments as of Thursday but not cases reported since then.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3055568

Reported Deaths: 34441
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles103280614122
San Bernardino2561091560
Riverside2504362645
San Diego2168352109
Orange2148082477
Santa Clara943661109
Kern86718565
Fresno82485968
Sacramento806781111
Alameda67952765
Ventura62101436
San Joaquin58290786
Contra Costa52965450
Stanislaus42882758
Tulare41867506
Monterey36126255
San Mateo32596309
San Francisco29321262
Solano25806106
Imperial25317465
Santa Barbara25083236
Merced24452308
Sonoma24068240
Kings19435145
Placer17380180
San Luis Obispo15929136
Madera13443151
Santa Cruz12298113
Marin11693157
Yolo10620131
Shasta9776122
Butte9474123
El Dorado782644
Sutter775478
Napa760140
Lassen519516
San Benito496343
Yuba495127
Tehama397142
Tuolumne338240
Nevada320673
Mendocino311432
Amador301631
Lake261230
Humboldt239324
Glenn193519
Colusa17339
Calaveras161723
Siskiyou144613
Mono11214
Inyo97429
Del Norte8662
Plumas5895
Modoc3853
Mariposa3464
Trinity3024
Sierra820
Alpine730
Unassigned00
Chico
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As expected, we had much quieter weather around northern California on Wednesday with plenty of sunshine, much weaker wind, and a wide range of temperatures. Thursday will be similar, but much more active weather is coming.
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