Measles outbreak spurs state of emergency in Rockland County

Amid a growing measles outbreak, Rockland County Executive Ed Day declared a state of emergency Tuesday.

Beginning Wednesday, anyone under the age of 18 who is not vaccinated against the virus will be banned from public places in the upstate county, such as malls, schools, theaters and places of worship. Private residences and open-air areas are excluded from the ban, which will be in effect for 30 days.

Day said the outbreak is the worst in the county’s history, with 153 reported cases since the fall — most of whom are children.

"It’s a health issue now. The focus on this is to tell parents that we expect you, under the authority of law, that you should vaccinate your children," he said at a news conference.

Parents who violate the ban will be charged with a class B misdemeanor and will be subject to a $500 fine and six months in jail, according to the Rockland County executive’s office. Day said he and the Rockland County district attorney are looking to arrests as a last resort. 

The outbreak has affected several communities across the country, particularly in Orthodox Jewish communities. Health officials also have warned parents of social media misinformation campaigns about the vaccine.

Day urged parents to only consult doctors for medical advice, and implored them to get their children the necessary treatments.

"If you’re going to People Magazine, and Jenny McCarthy and Robert De Niro for medical advice, you need to re-evaluate your life," he said. 

As of March 19, the New York City health department said it had seen 181 cases of measles in the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community since October, most of whom were children under 18. Although there have been no reported deaths in the city related to the outbreak, at least 11 of the patients have been hospitalized, according to the health department. 

Two weeks ago, city health officials identified five Yeshivas in Brooklyn that allowed unvaccinated students to attend, and issued orders to the staff to either comply with health regulations or face serious fines. 

Representatives from the city health department said they are still monitoring the situation.

"We are intensifying strategies to further prevent exposures and will continue to evaluate our options," the health department said in a statement. 

Day said his office is in communication with other New York municipalities and the state Department of Health.