In recent weeks, measles has spread from 15 to 20 states. The number of cases has jumped to more than 555 across the country. In areas with the worst outbreaks — including Rockland County, New York — public health officials are taking extreme measures.
On Tuesday, Rockland County officials announced they want to ban people infected with measles from public places for up to 21 days. “Failure to comply will result in $2,000 per violation per day,” said Rockland County Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert. While Rockland County officials said they aren’t going to go around arresting people with measles, they insist it’s about keeping the public safe.
The ban comes three weeks after an unsuccessful attempt to prevent unvaccinated children from public places in Rockland County. Since then, there have been 33 new cases.
“We have had five cases go to intensive care units, including one infant. Need we wait for some one to die?” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. Rockland County has been the epicenter of the measles outbreak. There have been 186 confirmed cases here since October 2018, and health officials say the outbreak has centered around the Orthodox Jewish community. “Measles is a huge public health issue because it is so contagious,” said Dr. Alanna Levine. New York’s measles outbreak has now spread to other states. In March, a New York man, unaware he was infected, drove to Michigan and ended up infecting 38 other people. More than 20 states have reported measles cases this year.
“My colleagues across the country are all worried that the measles are gonna hit their community,” Levine said. “So as a country, we need to make sure that everybody gets vaccinated.”
Rockland County residents are already starting to get knocks on the door and notices making sure they are vaccinated and warnings about the penalties they could face. The county is also asking schools in the district to keep unvaccinated children from attending.