As NYC measles cases total 498, a school in Flushing is closed

The NYC Health Department has shuttered a ninth school since it issued its emergency order in April.
The NYC Health Department has shuttered a ninth school since it issued its emergency order in April. Photo Credit: John Roca

The city Health Department shut down a Flushing school Monday for failing to comply with orders to keep unvaccinated children out of the school as the local measles outbreak grows to nearly 500 cases.

The Yeshiva of Central Queens, at 147-37 70th Rd., had been told on May 9 to "exclude unvaccinated students for 21 days following a known exposure at the school," the Health Department said. This is the first school outside Brooklyn to be shut down over its vaccination policies since the outbreak began in October.

The agency said there were 498 confirmed cases of the virus since October, with 80 percent of the instances falling within the Williamsburg ZIP codes targeted by the city’s public health emergency on April 9. 

"In order to prevent outbreaks in new areas of the city, we need parents to get their children vaccinated and schools to exclude children who are not up to date with the measles vaccine," Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement. "We continue to urge unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated against measles as soon as possible.”

The Yeshiva of Central Queens will reopen once the Health Department reviews and approves a submitted corrective action plan that addresses their failure to comply with the original order. Since the outbreak began, the city has shut down nine schools and day care centers. Eight were allowed to reopen under Health Department supervision.

The mayor’s emergency order mandated the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for residents in four Brooklyn ZIP codes, 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249, or face a $1,000 fine. Health officials have worked with community leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community to counter false anti-vaccination rhetoric and educate the public that the vaccine is the only way to prevent the spread of the virus, which can cause brain swelling and death.

"Maximizing the number of individuals up to date with their measles vaccine is the best way to protect our communities," Barbot said.

As of Monday, the city had issued 98 summonses to people who violated the vaccination mandate.