NY Judge Rules Against Rockland County’s State of Emergency Over Measles

April 5, 2019 Updated: April 5, 2019

A judge has ruled on behalf of several dozen parents who went to court over an emergency order declared last week by New York’s Rockland County that banned unvaccinated children from public places.

The New York Supreme Court ruled on late April 5 on the county’s executive order, which aimed to help stop a measles outbreak that has sickened 160 people since last October, reported ABC7

Rockland County’s order was for 30 days and banned people under the age of 18 who are not vaccinated against measles from schools, stores, churches, or public transportation, said the report.

The suit was filed on behalf of parents at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, and their lawyer said the order was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The state Supreme Court judge granted a temporary injunction, ending the state of emergency.

“While today’s ruling by Judge Thorsen did not go as we had expected I want to commend those here in Rockland who have used this State of Emergency,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day in a statement.

Baby vaccine
A doctor injecting a baby with vaccine. (FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

“What has not changed is our message of urgency. While the court may not agree with our action in this case, the disease continues unabated. One would think that seeing 42 exposures at a local hospital would garner the attention and judicial support it warrants and it is my view that waiting for a medical catastrophe is ill advised, particularly given the fact that we can see it coming,” he said.

“The uptick we predicted when we enacted our Declaration of Emergency unfortunately has come to pass with 167 cases and counting. Our Department of Health will continue doing everything possible to stem the tide of this outbreak.”

Michael Sussman, attorney for the parents, said the declaration “is an improper vehicle for an over-broad order of this sort,” LoHud reported.

“We expect all schools in the county, where children who have religious exemptions and have been barred … will be returned to school so they can continue their education,” Sussman said on Friday afternoon.

“What’s significant is the overreach involved, the indefensibility of it,” he said earlier in the week.

How Many Cases Are There?

The number of measles cases in recent years (CDC)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an update on the number of measles cases in recent months in the United States.

The agency reported 387 cases across the country from Jan. 1 to late March.

States that have reported cases of the virus are Washington, Texas, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Missouri, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Connecticut, according to the agency in a bulletin on March 28.

In comparison, there were 372 cases of measles for all of 2018, the agency noted. And in 2017, there were 120 cases, while in 2016, there were 86 cases.

States where medical, philosophical, or religious exemptions are available. California and West Virginia only offer medical exemptions. (NVIC)

In recent years, the most outbreaks in a single year occurred in 2014 when 667 cases of measles were confirmed, the agency said.

“These outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries such as Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring,” the health agency said, adding, “Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.”

The CDC noted that the virus can also spread in areas of the United States where groups of people are not vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the CDC defines an “outbreak” as three or more cases in an area.

Outbreaks have been noted in Rockland County, New York; New York City; Washington state; Santa Cruz County, California; New Jersey; and Butte County, California.

Every state, Washington, and Puerto Rico have their own vaccine requirements to attend public school.

“As of July 18, 2018, all 50 states and [Washington] DC require vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; polio; measles and rubella (49 states and DC also require mumps vaccination); and the varicella (chickenpox) vaccination,” according to ProCon.org.

Meanwhile, state legislators have proposed bills that would modify vaccine provisions and exemption rules, including SB-584, introduced in Washington State, and SB-276, introduced in California. Both would further limit students’ choice of refusing vaccines.