Unvaccinated children were banned from public spaces in Rockland County, New York, as of Wednesday after an outbreak of 153 confirmed cases of measles, CNN reported.
The order prohibits anyone under the age of 18 who has not been vaccinated from being in community places, including schools, malls, restaurants and public transport. The ban will last 30 days.
Authorities declared a state of emergency Tuesday in the county, which lies along the Hudson River just north of New York City. The area boasts a population of around 300,000.
"This is a public health crisis, and it is time to sound the alarm," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. "We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk."
“Parents will be held accountable if they’re found to be in violation of the state of emergency and the focus of this effort is on the parents of these children,” Day added. “We are urging them, now with the authority of law, to get your children vaccinated.”
Measles is a contagious virus that is preventable with the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). Doctors recommend the vaccine to be administered between 12 to 15 months of age, followed by a second booster vaccination.
The current outbreak in Rockland County began in October.
Violators of the order face a fine of $500 and up to six months in prison.
"We're not punishing the people who are doing the right thing already and following the rules,” said John Lyon, director of strategic communications for Day. “We just want to encourage everyone to do the right thing so we can stop this outbreak.”
The outbreak in Rockland County is concentrated around several ultra-orthodox Jewish communities, the New York Times reported.
Day said health officials investigating the outbreaks had met with "resistance" from some parents.
More than 300 cases of measles have been diagnosed this year in 15 states, according to the CDC.
The spike in outbreaks has in part been driven by dropping vaccination rates, as well as the rise of “anti-vaxxers” who promote false information on the internet linking vaccines to autism. Some parents also object for religious reasons.
The anti-vaccine movement has been labeled one of the top global health threats in 2019, according to the World Health Organization.
Cover image: An Orthodox Jewish man walks through the parking lot of a supermarket, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in Rockland County, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)