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Judge Lifts Rockland's Measles Emergency Order Banning Unvaccinated Children From Public

NEW CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – In the midst of a measles outbreak, should unvaccinated children be barred from public places?

A judge in Rockland County said "no" on Friday and has lifted the county's state of emergency surrounding the growing number of measles cases in the area.

The county has seen 166 confirmed measles cases since October. The outbreak is almost entirely contained to the ultra-Orthodox community.

In an effort to keep the disease from spreading, the county executive declared an emergency order last week, banning unvaccinated minors from attending school and entering public spaces, like stores and houses of worship.

According to the judge, the number of measles cases in the county did not meet the legal requirement for an emergency order.


Rockland County Executive Ed Day called the decision "very wrong-headed" and said he feared for the well-being of pregnant women and children, who could suffer life-threatening complications from the highly-contagious illness.

MORE: Judge Hears Arguments To Overturn Rockland County Executive's Measles Emergency Order

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. With no measles cases at the school, he says the emergency order restrictions are "a perversion."


"Those religious exemptions are sacrosanct in New York," he said Thursday. "You're preventing people, your honor, under 18 years old who are perfectly healthy from going to church, going to school, going shopping."

"It violates several Constitutional provisions," said lawyer Patricia Finn, who represents a family that did not vaccinate its children for religious reasons. "This is executive order in invalidating the religious exception is having a huge financial impact on families that now have to homeschool their kids."

In New York, families can claim a religious exemption from vaccination requirements. Now, a Rockland state senator is 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. 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."

"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," added State Sen. Brad Hoylman.

MORE: Rockland County Offering More Measles Vaccines For Free

On Thursday, a leading group of Rockland Hasidic rabbis issued a statement in Hebrew urging parents to vaccinate their children to stop the spread of measles.

The county attorney said if the outbreak becomes an epidemic, the cost of treating it would be enormous.

Judge Rolf Thorsen heard arguments against the emergency order Thursday and said he would rule on a request to lift it by the end of business Friday.

The county says its on firm legal and Constitutional grounds with the order, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

The health department will hold another free measles vaccine clinic from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday. For more information on the measles, click here.

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