More than two months since the city began writing summonses to unvaccinated people in parts of Brooklyn mired in an ongoing measles outbreak, so far no one has faced a city judge and just one person was actually fined, according to the city’s Office of Administrative Trial and Hearings.
New York City’s Health Department has written nearly 200 summonses to Brooklyn residents for failing to get themselves or their children vaccinated for measles. Twenty people have had their hearings at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings [OATH] rescheduled for later dates, including two slated for Wednesday morning, according to the office. One person skipped their hearing in late May before a judge, meaning they were written a default fine $2,000, double what they would have paid if they’d shown up, according to Marisa Senigo, a spokeswoman for the office. It’s unclear if the fine has been paid.
An additional 76 people complied with the commissioner’s orders after getting the summonses, so those were dropped, according to the Health Department. Nineteen more have hearing dates set in the coming weeks, according to OATH. The rest of the around 80 summonses haven’t yet been filed with OATH yet. The Health Department has until the day of the hearing to turn them over to the agency, according to Senigo.
At an administrative hearing, if the person summoned does appear, a judge decides whether or to uphold the $1,000 fine for violating the Health Commissioner's April 9th order, requiring measles vaccines for all people over the age of six months who live work or attend schools in four Brooklyn zip codes.
AM New York first reported on the delayed enforcement.
While individuals fined in the city’s measles crackdown have yet to pay up, Orthodox Jewish schools have faced the brunt of monetary damages. One yeshiva in particular, United Talmudical Academy, has been fined more than $10,000, and is facing thousands more in fines. Different Talmudical Academy locations were shut down multiple times by health inspectors who said the school failed to show immunization records for staff and students.
Since last fall, when the measles outbreak began, there have been 596 measles cases reported in NYC, with at least 42 people hospitalized and 12 who needed intensive care. Health Department officials have said they’re optimistic the worst of the outbreak is over.
“We are cautiously optimistic that this reduction will continue,” said Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said at a recent Board of Health meeting. “It's a reminder that working together we can bring this to an end but we don't want anyone to take this for granted.”
So far in June only 9 measles cases have been confirmed in NYC, compared to a high of 178 in April at the peak of the outbreak. Measles cases continue to rise nationwide, however, with the number of cases reaching 1,044 in 28 states as of last Friday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gwynne Hogan is an associate producer at WNYC. You can follow her on Twitter at @GwynneFitz.