Judge rules 40 unvaccinated children can't go back to school

A federal judge has turned down a request...

Posted: Mar 15, 2019 8:23 AM

A federal judge has turned down a request to let more than 40 unvaccinated children return to classes in a suburban New York school, while there's a measles outbreak in the area.

Since December 7, the students from Green Meadow Waldorf School in suburban Rockland County just north of New York City, have had to stay home from school, in response to an exclusion order issued by the Rockland County Department of Public Health.

Green Meadow is a K-12 school with about 300 students enrolled.

Rockland County public health officials are reporting 146 total cases, with 82% of the patients not having had the MMR vaccine, for measles, mumps, and rubella. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease, which was largely eliminated in the US by the early 2000s.

An international traveler is believed to have introduced measles into the county last September, leaving the unvaccinated vulnerable to falling ill.

More than 20 parents are listed on the lawsuit, identified only by their initials.

Children have to stay home

Thomas Humbach, the county attorney, defended the exclusion order while speaking to media Tuesday.

"The Supreme Court has held that the public health is a primary objective of the government, and we have to stand strong for the protection of the babies and the infirm who would be affected by this disease," he said.

Humbach stressed that the case isn't over and the county will continue to hold its position that unvaccinated children in the county needed to stay home from school during the measles outbreak. "With any luck, the measles outbreak will end before the case does," Humbach said.

In a letter to school administrators in Rockland County, Dr. Howard Zucker, New York state's health commissioner, designated Rockland County Public Heatlh Commissioner, Patricia Ruppert, as having authority to order students excluded from classes if there "have been one or more recently confirmed cases of measles." Zucker noted that the exclusion order could last for a period of "21 days after the last exposure."

Zucker added that "Affected schools should also take appropriate steps to ensure that unvaccinated students are able to continue with coursework from home."

Ruppert imposed the school exclusion order for unvaccinated children on December 5. At the time, county officials said Green Meadow's vaccination rate was just 33%, but that number has since increased to about 56%, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News.

Still that number is far short of the 95% figure many public health officials cite as necessary for a community to achieve immunity to various communicable diseases.

Parents are scrambling to take care of children

Michael Sussman, an attorney representing parents and students forced to stay home, also spoke to press following the judge's decision. He called the county's exclusion order "over broad," arguing there hasn't been a single measles case reported in the school or its broader community of Chestnut Ridge.

Rockland County says the measles cases are clustered in eastern Ramapo, a few miles away from Green Meadow Waldorf School. In a notice posted online by Rockland County, officials noted, "Due to Rockland County's small geographic size, exposure to the measles may occur anywhere in the county."

But Sussman said he didn't think the law allowed health officials to exclude children from a school without a reported case at the school.
One woman speaking on behalf of "49 children from one school" said her child had been out of school for 93 days.

Another parent said "the stress and the burden on the whole family has been enormous," making it harder for parents to earn a living and take care of children who couldn't be in school during the day. He said the county had overreached with its "unprecedented and ambiguously worded policy," causing parents to "miss work, hire tutors, and live on reduced income." He said some students had missed entire seasons of sports they played.

Sizable outbreak in Washington state

The CDC has counted 228 measles cases in 2019, a number well on its way to rivaling 2018's count of 372 US cases, which was the second highest in two decades.

This week, 22 of those cases were new.

The outbreaks in Brooklyn and New York City suburbs have centered on observant Jewish communities, and are connected to travelers who have been in Israel. In addition to New York, there is also a sizable measles outbreak in the state of Washington, with 75 affected.

Cases have also been reported in New Hampshire, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oregon and Texas.

Terre Haute
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 60°
Robinson
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 59°
Indianapolis
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 58°
Rockville
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 57°
Casey
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 61°
Brazil
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 60°
Marshall
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 60°
Clear & Cool
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1605320

Reported Deaths: 27132
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook61354910964
DuPage1039171357
Will873121089
Lake771121060
Kane65888850
Winnebago39007544
Madison38143576
St. Clair35003569
McHenry33032316
Peoria25972362
Champaign25862182
Sangamon24588271
McLean21879207
Tazewell19736326
Rock Island17806344
Kankakee16784234
Kendall15459106
LaSalle14496275
Macon14478240
Vermilion13234189
Adams12695148
DeKalb11667128
Williamson11419157
Whiteside7897176
Jackson769188
Boone760082
Coles7341112
Ogle713486
Grundy701281
Franklin686899
Clinton681498
Knox6651164
Marion6547138
Macoupin646399
Henry620474
Jefferson6060132
Effingham604382
Livingston571295
Woodford554291
Stephenson546289
Randolph529297
Monroe508199
Christian491780
Fulton487970
Morgan487296
Logan477474
Montgomery467476
Lee458156
Bureau427188
Perry415171
Saline409263
Fayette398956
Iroquois394673
McDonough354956
Jersey322253
Shelby311843
Douglas306636
Crawford304130
Lawrence301131
Union296747
Wayne274057
White265930
Richland262054
Hancock256334
Pike255956
Cass250928
Clark250738
Bond244024
Clay240047
Ford235256
Edgar234744
Carroll225437
Warren224960
Johnson213524
Moultrie211831
Jo Daviess206126
Washington206127
Wabash200915
Greene200739
Mason199351
Massac198144
De Witt195530
Piatt190814
Mercer190634
Cumberland178325
Menard158612
Jasper152418
Marshall134721
Hamilton128821
Brown10178
Pulaski98311
Schuyler9688
Edwards96315
Stark76827
Gallatin7435
Scott6975
Alexander67611
Henderson65114
Calhoun6442
Hardin56013
Putnam5444
Pope4815
Unassigned1882432
Out of IL40

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479