Officials in Rockland County, New York have just banned unvaccinated children from all public spaces. The ban was announced on Tuesday by John Lyon, director of strategic communications for County Executive Ed Day.
“We’re not punishing the people who are doing the right thing already and following the rules. We just want to encourage everyone to do the right thing so we can stop this outbreak,” he said. Lyon added that the move is “extremely unusual,” and that officials “don’t believe it’s been done anywhere in the country before.”
This comes after Rockland County, which is located on the Hudson River just outside New York City, has been battling a measles outbreak for the past six months. As of this writing, 153 measles cases have been reported in the county since October.
“State law gives health departments authority to broadly implement control measures in response to outbreaks,” explained Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He added that the CDC provides state and local health departments with the technical assistance needed to carry out such measures.
This ban means that unvaccinated children will not be allowed in churches, synagogues, malls, playgrounds, and even schools. Parents who violate this ban will face six months in jail or up to a $500 fine.
Rockland County Attorney Thomas Humbach explained that officials need to prioritize public safety above anything else.
“We have had success, but this case is not over,” Humbach said. “While no one enjoys the fact that these kids are out of school, these orders have worked; they have helped prevent the measles outbreak from spreading to this school population.”
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