Measles outbreak 'continues to rage' in New York county as state of emergency renews
Outbreaks across the U.S. have forced officials to declare emergencies. Why are we starting to see the rise of these outbreaks? It dates back to the anti-vax movement. USA TODAY
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Rockland County renewed a state of emergency Thursday aimed at stopping a measles outbreak, but the order is largely symbolic and imposes no new restrictions.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day's original emergency order issued March 26, which was subsequently halted by the courts, was set to expire at midnight Thursday; this second order will remain in effect until May 25.
“Over the last 30 days since my original declaration, we have lost the one thing we couldn’t afford to lose, valuable time," Day stated in a press release. "With nearly 50 new confirmed cases in less than a month what we predicted has come true; this outbreak continues to rage despite the best efforts of our Department of Health."
He added: “The disagreement amongst the various courts has undoubtedly caused confusion and contributed to this situation continuing. However, I pledge that we will continue to do everything within our power to combat this deadly disease and bring it to a stop once and for all.”
“We are in a crisis, we are in a state of emergency,” Day said during an afternoon press briefing, stating that Rockland comprises 29 percent of the nation’s reported measles cases despite representing 0.1% of the population.
Day's first emergency declaration barred unvaccinated children from schools and other public places countywide.
In the face of legal challenges, the county health department pivoted to a more limited stay-at-home order affecting only those with measles or exposed to the disease in the Spring Valley-Monsey area, where most of the cases have occurred.
Day said today that the "Communicable Disease and Exposure Exclusion Order" had so far resulted in five orders being issued. Failure to comply can result in a $2,000 fine per violation per day.
An animated explanation of the measles. Rockland/Westchester Journal News
The orders, which also target unvaccinated children at schools and day care centers in the same area, were delivered just prior to the Easter/Passover break to 16 schools and affected 331 students.
“Many students, even in schools that have now achieved the required 95% vaccination rate, have not yet been immunized. This has to change,” said Commissioner of Health Patricia Schnabel Ruppert. “I have the authority from the State Commissioner of Health to exclude those children who are not up to date on their immunization. With this outbreak, I am implementing further exclusions of students without evidence of proper MMR vaccination effective immediately. This is addressed to the school administrators and principals.”
Rockland's offensive against the highly contagious virus comes in the face of an outbreak that has reached 200 confirmed cases since it started last fall. Officials have declined to estimate the number of active cases.
Local struggles to contain the illness come amid a national measles resurgence that has reached 695 reported cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
About three-quarters of those cases have been in New York state, mainly in two ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County.
Rockland has employed several methods of eradicating the measles, including an aggressive outreach and education campaign and a handful of free vaccination clinics.
Officials said 19,279 measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations had been given within Rockland County since the outbreak began. This number has increased by 2,321 since Day issued his first emergency order on March 26.
That countywide state of emergency drew the most attention and criticism and set off a pair of lawsuits that effectively halted the order. Unlike the exclusion order currently in place, the emergency declaration applied to even children with religious exemptions to vaccination.
The county is continuing to appeal an injunction despite another ruling against the policy handed down by a state appellate panel.
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