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As reported last month, the New York County executive, Ed Day, declared a state of emergency that would bar children and teenagers who are not vaccinated against measles from public places. The measure was supposed to last one month. Only ten days after the measure established to stem the rise of measles cases, a state judge put the injunction on hold. The Washington Post reports:
“Children are hereby permitted to return to their respective schools forthwith and otherwise to assemble in public places,” Judge Rolf Thorsen wrote in his Friday decision.
The controversial ban, announced by a spokesman for Rockland County Executive Ed Day, was an effort to address an outbreak in Rockland County, where 167 confirmed cases of measles had been reported as of Friday.
Officials in the county declared a state of emergency, as Lindsey Bever reported in The Washington Post last week, announcing that the ban would remain in place for 30 days or until unvaccinated minors receive the MMR vaccine to protect them against measles, mumps and rubella. Unvaccinated minors, official said, would not be permitted in enclosed places like churches, schools and shopping centers.
Thorsen made his ruling after some parents from a private Waldorf school filed a suit calling the action “arbitrary, capricious” and “an unprecedented ‘declaration of a local emergency.’ ” The parents claimed that the county had acted beyond its legal authority. They said the declaration caused “children to be denied attendance at nursery programs and schools and has effectively prohibited their movement and denied them the right to congregate and assemble in public places.”
Across the nation and around the world, a global movement that spreads misinformation about vaccines has helped drive down child immunizations, lowering the community immunity that is critical for protection against one of the world’s most contagious diseases. Considering the fact that measles is among the most contagious of the infectious diseases, maybe the judge should have sided with the public’s safety.
Dorit Reiss, a professor at U.C. Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, said a ban by executive order was an unusual step, but also a symbolic one. “It wasn’t as aggressive as it could have been,” Reiss said. “They weren’t intending to do mass arrests.”
Thorsen’s decision, Reiss said, rested on the question of whether the outbreak was an emergency. With an outbreak of such a highly contagious virus, she said, “There is a reasonable argument that it is an emergency.”