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Rockland County measles outbreak: Judge lifts ban on unvaccinated children, but not because outbreak ended

Judge lifts ban on unvaccinated children

A judge in upstate New York on Friday lifted the ban on unvaccinated children in public places despite 166 confirmed measles cases, most of which have been in the local ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. According to the judge, the number of measles cases in the county did not meet the legal requirement for an emergency order, CBS New York reports

Officials in Rockland County, New York issued an emergency order on March 26 that prohibited unvaccinated children under the age of 18 from going out in public spaces for 30 days. Public places affected by the order included shopping centers, businesses, restaurants, schools, and places of worship. 

Attorney Michael Sussman represents a dozen families associated with the private Green Meadow Waldorf School, where many parents have refused to vaccinate their children for religious reasons. He argued in court that the order was "preventing people ... under 18 years old who are perfectly healthy from going to church, going to school, going shopping."

 With no measles cases at the school, he called the emergency order restrictions "a perversion." "Those religious exemptions are sacrosanct in New York," he said Thursday. 

But State Sen. Brad Hoylman disagreed. "Your right to express your sincerely held belief or your religious belief does not extend to the right to endanger our children and our community from measles," he said.

Rockland County executive Ed Day called the judge's decision "very wrong-headed," CBS New York reports. Day said he feared for the well-being of pregnant women and children, who could suffer life-threatening complications from the highly-contagious illness.

In New York, families can claim a religious exemption from vaccination requirements. CBS New York reports a Rockland County state senator is currently sponsoring a bill to eliminate that exemption, as California did in 2015.

"It's very simple: Just remove all non-medical exemptions. Make it clear and simple to school administrators, make it clear and simple to parents. Cut through the nonsense that's out there and let's govern by the science," State Sen. David Carlucci said. "Or else, we're going to have a real, real problem on our hands, and it's not just going to be isolated to Rockland County or to Brooklyn – everyone's going to be facing this."

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