Warning that a measles outbreak has reached crisis proportions, the New York City suburb of Rockland County on Wednesday banned unvaccinated youths from restaurants and other public places.
In its current form, the emergency decree would be binding on employees as well as customers.
County officials acknowledged that the ban, declared by County Executive Ed Day under his emergency powers, will be largely voluntary. “Law enforcement will not be patrolling or asking for vaccination records, but those found to be in violation will be referred to the Rockland County District Attorney's Office,” reads the announcement from Day’s office.
The ban runs for 30 days. Youngsters who desire to work at or frequent a restaurant in the meantime can resume their normal behavior by volunteering to be vaccinated. The county’s Department of Health planned to open a free vaccination clinic Wednesday afternoon.
The county has been in the throes of a prolonged measles epidemic that has persisted despite attempts to change the minds of parents who opt not to vaccinate their children. Some believe that standard vaccines are an underlying cause of autism and other serious maladies.
"As this outbreak has continued, our inspectors have begun to meet resistance from those they are trying to protect,” Day said in a statement. “They have been hung up on or told not to call again. They've been told, ‘We're not discussing this, do not come back,’ when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations.”
“We are taking the next step in that endeavor today," he declared.
The ban extends to all public places, defined in the decree as any location where 10 or more people can congregate for social, recreational, religious or civic purposes. The measure specifically cites food and beverage facilities as covered establishments.
The ban covers anyone under age 18.
The number of measles cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has skyrocketed thus far in 2019. Between Jan. 1 and March 21, health authorities have reported 304 instances to the agency, compared with 372 for all of 2018 and 120 for 2017.
Located just north of New York City, Rockland County is an affluent area with a total population of about 312,000 people.