Measles cases are spiking in the US, and one area is taking a big stand: New York's Rockland County has declared a state of emergency over an outbreak that has seen 153 cases since October, and is banning unvaccinated minors from public places. Anyone under 18 who has not received the measles vaccine is barred from public spaces unless they possess a medical exemption, the Journal News reports. Outdoor gathering spots are not included in the ban, and signs explaining the ban will be posted in places where it does apply. Anyone found to be in violation could face up to six months in jail or a $500 fine, but officials are not deploying law enforcement to public places to seek proof of vaccination. The declaration expires in 30 days.
Only about 73% of children in the county are fully vaccinated for measles, and herd immunity takes effect at 95%, health officials say. Nearly 84% of the cases since October have been in minors. "Parents will be held accountable if they are found to be in violation of the state of emergency and the focus of this effort is on the parents of these children," County Executive Ed Day says. "We are urging them, once again, now with the authority of law, to get your children vaccinated." The county will hold free vaccination clinics for residents. Experts say the ban on unvaccinated children in public places might be unprecedented, but they also note the difficulty in enforcing such a ban. Per ABC 7, public places are defined in the ban as places where more than 10 people are intended to congregate; recreation and shopping areas, as well as restaurants, schools, daycares, and places of worship, are included, as are public transportation vehicles. (Read more measles stories.)