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Rockland County, a suburb of New York City, will declare a state of emergency and bar minors who are unvaccinated against measles from being in public places, the latest effort to fight New York State’s worst measles outbreak in decades.
The declaration comes as outbreaks of measles have cropped up around the country, concentrated in populations with low vaccination rates in places like ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and tight-knit Slavic communities in Washington State.
But Rockland County’s order, one of the most steps taken since the New York outbreak began last fall, highlighted not just the seriousness of the situations but also the desperation of public officials to control the spread of a highly contagious disease they have so far been powerless to halt.
The declaration will take effect at midnight on Tuesday and expires in 30 days. The prohibition will be enforced retroactively, with parents being penalized if they are found to have allowed unvaccinated children into the public spaces.
The county executive, Ed Day, is expected to discuss the details of the state of emergency in a news conference at 2 p.m.
Rockland County, which has a population of more than 300,000 people, has had 153 confirmed cases of measles since October, a county spokesman, John G. Lyon, said. Of those, 48 have come in 2019.
The outbreak there, as well as in New York City, has mostly affected ultra-Orthodox communities, where vaccination rates tend to be lower and anti-vaccination literature has spread, public health officials have said.
In December, in an effort to stop the spread of diseases, Rockland County issued so-called exclusion orders barring unvaccinated children from schools with low vaccination rates. In New York City, health officials also issued an emergency health measure ordering that schools in certain ZIP codes stop unvaccinated students from attending classes.
But as public health officials in Rockland County worked to trace the outbreak, they also found possible instances of measles exposure in supermarkets, stores and shopping centers.
On Thursday, the county’s health department warned of possible measles exposure at a Target in Spring Valley, a village with more than 30,000 people, that may have taken place during a two-day span this month.
Officials are particularly worried because measles is an extremely transmissible virus. It can live for up to two hours in the airspace where an infected person breathed, coughed or sneezed.
The disease is so contagious that up to 90 percent of nonimmunized people close to an infected person will also become infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but a handful of outbreaks have occurred in recent years. Through March 21 of this year, there have been 314 confirmed measles cases in the United States, according to the C.D.C.
In addition to New York, there have also been measles outbreaks in Washington State, Texas, Illinois and California, the C.D.C. said.
In January, Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, also declared a state of emergency to help public health officials respond to and contain the outbreak there. His proclamation did not restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals.