A county in New York City’s northern suburbs has declared a state of emergency over a measles outbreak largely concentrated in the city’s Orthodox Jewish community.
The county is experiencing New York state’s longest measles outbreak since the disease was declared officially eliminated from the United States in 2000.
It has infected over 150 people since last autumn.
Under the declaration, which lasts for at least 30 days, anyone under 18 who is not vaccinated against measles is barred from public gathering places, including shopping centres, civic centres, schools, restaurants and houses of worship.
Those in violation of the declaration could be charged with a misdemeanour punishable by up to six months in jail.
“It’s an attention grab, there’s no question about it,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said at a news conference, noting that he did not believe such a drastic step has ever been tried in the US before.
Day said he was taking the action in hopes of reversing a recent uptick in cases amid disturbing reports that health workers were encountering resistance when investigating cases.
But Day acknowledged that there will be no concerted enforcement effort and that the intent is not to arrest people but to emphasise the seriousness of the situation.
“There will not be law enforcement or deputy sheriffs asking for vaccination records. That is ridiculous,” Day said. “However, parents will be held accountable if they’re found to be in violation of this emergency declaration.”
Health officials say the best way to stop the disease’s spread is a vaccination rate in the community of 92 percent to 95 percent.
But Day said only 72.9 percent of people under 18 have been vaccinated against measles in Rockland County, which has more than 300,000 residents.