For the first time since he first declared one, the Rockland County executive is not renewing a measles state of emergency. Republican Ed Day allowed his fourth declaration to expire at midnight, saying the measles crisis has subsided but the outbreak hasn’t ended.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day says the crisis is over yet vigilance and vaccination efforts continue.
“To Rockland County, congratulations,” Day says. “We assured all back then when things looked very bleak, when we were the hardest hit area in the United States, with 30 percent of the cases nationwide, that we would beat this outbreak, and we have.”
Day initially declared a measles state of emergency in March, and renewed it in April, May and June, though the three renewals did not contain his initial directive barring people under 18 years of age unvaccinated against measles from public places following court action. Essentially, the renewals reaffirmed the county department of health’s orders, which included a requirement that anyone diagnosed with the measles or exposed to a person diagnosed with the measles be excluded from indoor and outdoor public places for up to 21 days. Another order pertained to unvaccinated students.
“Despite this state of emergency order ending, these orders will still be issued to those exposed with measles,” Day says.. “We will not stop until we again say that measles has been eliminated and know that, this time, the disease will not return.”
Day says more than 25,000 MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella, vaccines have been administered since October, when the outbreak took hold. Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert says the message is sinking in that everyone needs to cooperate for the good of public health. In the past three weeks alone, Ruppert says the county has administered 191 MMR vaccinations during clinic walk-in hours.
“Vaccines are safe,” Ruppert says. “Vaccines are effective, and they are the only way to prevent measles and many other dangerous diseases.”
She says summer camps orders have been met with full compliance, and to date, more than 19,000 immunization records have been reviewed, resulting in all camps opening on time. Again, Day:
“While the state of emergency is no longer in effect, and the outbreak is waned and under control, our vigilance will not be compromised or slowed in any way. We will keep our foot on the pedal and our eyes on the road ahead,” says Day. “With the authority of the health commissioner’s orders, which will be continuing, and the new legislation allowing for medical exemptions only for school entry vaccinations, we will be inspecting all schools to ensure strict compliance.”
Day says that during the school year, across New York, excluding New York City, more than 26,000 students in public and private schools as well as in pre-school, had documented religious exemptions from required vaccinations. He thanked state legislators for passing a law Governor Andrew Cuomo signed in June that eliminates non-medical, namely religious, exemptions from vaccinations. Rockland has seen the most cases in the state outside New York City amid the longest measles outbreak since measles was eradicated in 2000. Day took aim at anti-vaxxers, questioning their logic. Patricia Gore was one of about a dozen anti-vaxxers protesting two days earlier outside a town hall in neighboring Orange County held by Democratic state Senator James Skoufis, who voted in support of the measure.
“My son cannot go to school. We have to figure out what we’re going to do. It’s going to cost us extra money. I cannot… me and my husband both work. I can’t take off to homeschool. I have to figure out what we’re going to do,” says Gore. “And financially it’s going to impact us, my son, emotionally. He cannot go to school with his friends anymore. He can’t play on school teams anymore, that he’s very good in sports.”
Day says that when he declared the first state of emergency, Rockland had 153 confirmed measles cases. Today, there are 283. He says the number of cases, though, after increasing from March to April, has decreased monthly — by 29 percent in May; 63 percent in June; and 42 percent to date in July. Ruppert says Rockland will not consider the outbreak over until the county goes through two incubation periods, 21 days each, without new cases. Day notes the outbreak began when seven unvaccinated travelers entered the United States.