Rockland County in New York have been forced to declare a medical state of emergency after vaccine-refusing Orthodox Jews brought the disease back to America after visiting Israel, state officials have confirmed.
Citing pockets of resistance that are impeding the county’s efforts to stem a measles outbreak that has risen to 153 cases since October, Rockland officials declared a state of emergency in terms of which anyone under the age of 18 and not vaccinated against measles will be banned from public places.
Places covered under the ban include shopping centers, restaurants, schools and places of worship. Although Rockland’s outbreak has so far affected only Orthodox Jewish community, Rockland County Executive Ed Day said there’s no religious exemption and that the declaration of a state of emergency is “meant to coincide with family gatherings during the upcoming holidays of Passover and Easter.”
Noncompliance will carry penalties of six months in jail or a $500 fine, although Day said law enforcement would not be deployed at any location seeking proof of vaccination.
The announcement comes days after county health officials announced six new exposure sites in Spring Valley and Monsey, including Target in Spring Valley Marketplace, All Fresh Supermarket, Atrium Plaza, Designer’s Spot, TOR bus loop 2 Eastbound and International Taxi.
Rockland health officials caution that due to the small geographic size of the county, anyone who is unvaccinated is at risk for measles.
Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert issued an order on Dec. 5 that schools in the 10952 and 10977 ZIP codes with vaccination rates under 95 percent must keep unvaccinated children from attending.
Nine yeshivas were fined in November for not reporting unvaccinated students. A federal judge denied a temporary injunction to allow unvaccinated students to return to class at the Green Meadow Waldorf School after parents brought a lawsuit against the county.
The original measles cases in New York and New Jersey in October came from travelers visiting from or traveling home from Israel, which is experiencing a measles outbreak that has affected more than 3,400 people and caused at least two deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 314 measles cases in 2019 as of March 21 in 15 states, including New York, New Jersey and Washington.
In Israel, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported the highest number of cases of measles in decades, with 229,068 in 2018, nearly double the number of cases in 2017, the Jerusalem Post reported.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, more than 3,400 people were infected with measles between March 2018 and January 2019. Many of the infections were caused during travel abroad.
According to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, the measles outbreak is caused by the Orthodox Jews because “a strain of opposition to vaccines has persisted in haredi communities claiming that vaccines are ineffective at best and harmful at worst.”