Amidst an ongoing measles outbreak, city officials forced a Williamsburg Yeshiva to close after they repeatedly tried and failed to get access to the school's immunization records, Health Department Commissioner Oxiris Barbot announced at a press conference on Monday.
The pre-school with 250 children run by United Talmudical Academy on Ross Street won’t be allowed to reopen until they demonstrate they’re willing to cooperate with the Health Department. At least two children at the school had the measles, though it wasn’t clear if they caught it at school or in the neighborhood, Barbot said.
“We don’t take this measure lightly,” she said. “We recognize that school closure can potentially present hardships for families and that’s not our intent; but if a school is unable and unwilling we will definitely close them…in this situation it’s critical that schools play their part in excluding students who are unvaccinated.”
The United Talmudical Academy didn’t return a request for comment right away.
The announcement comes as the city has ramped up its efforts to fight the measles amid a dramatic spike in number of infections in recent weeks. As of Monday, the Health Department said there were 329 confirmed cases, with 44 cases identified in the last week. Of those one six were new infections, the majority happened earlier and were recently identified.
Since October, 24 people have been hospitalized and six were admitted to intensive care, city health officials said. Three people remain in the hospital with two in intensive care, Barbot said at the press conference.
The DOH also cited 22 other yeshivas for failing to comply with it’s ongoing order that dates back to December, requiring them to keep unvaccinated children out, though none have been fined. Barbot said the city will consider closing other schools for continued non-compliance.
Young Advocates For Fair Education, a group that is critical of yeshivas and what they say is the city’s lack of oversight to ensure that the children get an adequate secular education, pointed out that the schools are closed anyway for Passover.
NYC @NYCMayor is acting tough, supposedly closing a Yeshiva. But the truth is ALL Hasidic Yeshivas are closed for about a week & 1/2 to two weeks because of Passover.
Who duped whom?
cc: @AliBaumanTV @ReuvenBlau @GwynneFitz https://t.co/E4rOE8nwDN
— YAFFED (@yaffedorg) April 16, 2019
Last week the city issued an emergency declaration mandating vaccination for people living in parts of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant or face $1,000 fines or imprisonment if they failed to comply. Barbot said that the city had issued some fines for noncompliance but declined to say how many.
Five unnamed parents sued over the mandatory vaccination rule, arguing the city had overstepped its executive powers. Both parties are due back in court later this week.