Measles outbreak: How Rockland County became ground zero – then hit the ‘third rails’ with emergency declaration

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Ed Day stood at the podium in the standing-room-only media room and touched three third rails of political discourse, raising calls of anti-Semitism, howls from anti-vaccination groups and pushback from civil libertarians.

The Rockland County Executive declared a state of emergency on Tuesday in Rockland’s six-month-long measles outbreak, barring unvaccinated youngsters under 18 from public places for 30 days. Public places include schools, places of worship, shopping centers and restaurants. Parks and outdoor areas are not included.

Those with medical exemptions are not included in the ban.

The declaration, put in force at the stroke of midnight March 27, quickly became an international story, sparking a debate that blends religion, public health and government action.

Day said he saw the declaration as the only tool he had to reverse the measles outbreak’s troubling trajectory, one that could ratchet up considerably with the upcoming Passover and Easter holidays.