With 153 reported measles cases since October, Rockland County has declared a state of emergency for the outbreak. Anyone under 18 years old who has not been vaccinated for measles will be banned from public places, like schools, houses of worship, shopping centers and restaurants, starting at midnight.
"This is a public health crisis," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said. So far no fatalities have been directly attributed to the measles outbreak, but Day scoffed at those who think that remaining unvaccinated is acceptable "to gain immunity," pointing out that dangers include "pneumonia, encephalitis, and premature birth."
The ban will be in effect for 30 days, or until the resident gets vaccinated. Day emphasized that "law enforcement will not be asking for vaccination records"—which he called "ridiculous"—but did say that if someone was found in violation, "their cases will be referred to the district attorney's office."
Overall, the measles outbreak in New York State has been the worst in recent years, and many of the cases seem to be concentrated in areas with high Orthodox Jewish populations. A hotline for ultra-Orthodox mothers, Akeres HaBayis, appears to be spreading misinformation about vaccines. Immunization rates at ultra-Orthodox schools in Brooklyn also fell before the outbreak.
The Journal News reports, "The outbreak has primarily affected members of the Orthodox Jewish community and exposure sites have mostly been in Monsey or Spring Valley, and anti-vaccination advocates last fall used [Akeres HaBayis] to tell parents to continue sending their children to school. But Rockland health officials caution that due to the small geographic size of the county, anyone who is unvaccinated is at risk for measles."
About 85% of the Rockland County measles cases have afflicted those 18 years old or younger, with nearly 39% being ages three or younger. And 82% of the confirmed measles cases have not had the MMR vaccine.
"Do the right thing," Day implored, noting when people will measles are in the public, they may be in contact with babies, pregnant women, the elderly, and people who are immunocompromised, all of whom may be extra vulnerable.
He added that some members of the community had slammed doors or hung up on health inspectors, and mentioned "pockets of resistance" to the vaccination efforts.
Some ultra-Orthodox nurses in Brooklyn are trying to fight "anti-vaccine propaganda".