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That New York county can’t ban unvaccinated kids from public places, judge rules

A judge in Rockland County, New York, sided with dozens of parents who sued to overturn a ban that kept their unvaccinated kids from public places during a measles outbreak.

by Emma Ockerman
Apr 5 2019, 10:45pm

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A judge in Rockland County, New York, sided with dozens of parents who sued to overturn a ban that kept their unvaccinated kids from public places during a measles outbreak, according to ABC affiliate WABC.

Unvaccinated children will now be allowed to return to schools, parks, hospitals, and other public places, ending the county’s state of emergency, at least for now. It’s not clear whether the county will appeal. The state Supreme Court judge, Rolf Thorsen, said the outbreak didn’t rise to the level of an epidemic, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News.

Rockland County, just north of New York City, has seen 166 cases of measles since October. As a last resort after failing to stem the outbreak, County Executive Ed Day instituted the controversial ban on March 26 in an effort to protect more children from contracting the highly contagious, sometimes deadly respiratory illness.

Earlier this week, however, parents filed lawsuit that argued the ban was “capricious,” if not unconstitutional, and prevented their kids from being able to learn. None of the children, nor their parents, involved in the lawsuit, had measles.

Day said in a statement to WABC that the judge’s decision to strike down the ban surprised him, and he urged more children to get vaccinated. But counties usually have the legal authority to institute quarantines in times of public health emergencies. The county had previously kept unvaccinated kids from their public schools during the outbreak, and a federal district judge agreed in March that was within the county’s right.

“We sought to find a new way to fight back against a disease that was eradicated almost 20 years ago and refused to sit idly by while those in Rockland were put at risk,” Day said.

Cover image: A woman receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)