State judge ends Rockland County’s State of Emergency over measles breakout

Rockland County Executive Ed Day: We vehemently disagree with Judge’s order

County Attorney seeks acknowledgement that Health Commissioner’s Order stands

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Rolf Thorsen issued a Restraining Order late Friday against Rockland County’s Executive Order Declaring a State of Emergency in Rockland County. The judge’s order restrains the County from enforcing the Executive Order, which barred anyone under 18 years of age and unvaccinated against the measles from public places for 30 days or until they received the MMR vaccination. 

“I absolutely do not agree with the judge’s opinion that this measles crisis does not rise to the level of an emergency, when, in fact, we are facing the longest lasting current outbreak in the nation, and the largest outbreak in New York State in 30 years,” said County Executive Ed Day.

In addition, the judge’s order, as written, has been interpreted by some to mean that students may return to school. However, the Rockland County Health Commissioner’s previous order, which was enacted on December 3, 2018, continues to bar unvaccinated students from schools that have less than a 95% vaccination rate. Judge Thorsen ruled only on the Executive Order, which took effect on March 27th and was issued under New York State Executive Law § 24.

“Therefore, today, County Attorney Thomas Humbach sent a letter to Judge Thorsen and to opposing counsel stating our position that the judge’s restraining order did not involve the Health Commissioner’s order,” said Day. “The Health Commissioner’s order was validated in Federal Court and supported by the NY State Department of Health. Therefore, the Commissioner’s order still stands. We are asking the judge to acknowledge that fact.”

In February, the NY State Department of Health determined that an imminent threat to public health exists in Rockland County, based on the significant health risk and rising number of cases. Now at 168 cases, the County Health Department continues on its steady path, working to increase the number of vaccinated individuals. The County continues to urge those who have not been vaccinated to please do so now, for their own sake and for the sake of those who cannot be protected through vaccination.  

“The State of Emergency was issued to take that extra, necessary step to fight back against a disease that was eradicated almost 20 years ago,” said Day. “We do not take this lightly. During my five years in office, I have only issued one other State of Emergency Executive Order, and that was for a significant snow storm. What we are facing now is far, far worse. Indeed, this is now a national epidemic, with the CDC reporting that 465 cases have been confirmed in 19 states so far in 2019 – the second-highest total since measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. – and the numbers are rising fast. Between January 1 and March 28, the CDC confirmed 387 new cases, with 73 new cases last week alone. The number of cases in just the first three months of 2019 exceeds the total number of cases for all of 2018.  It continues to be our opinion that this measles outbreak was a valid reason for issuing the State of Emergency.” 

The Rockland County Health Department urges those who are still unsure about the merits of immunization to talk to their doctors. For additional vaccination locations, call the Health Department directly at (845) 364-2497, or see your private physician.

Read Thorsen’s ruling in attached photo gallery

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