Amid Measles Outbreak, N.Y. Closes Jewish Daycare After It Violates Emergency Order

The Brooklyn center failed to follow instructions issued after the city declared a public health emergency, New York City's Health Department says

A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, April 11, 2019.
\ SHANNON STAPLETON/ REUTERS

NEW YORK — A Jewish child care center in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Brooklyn was closed Monday after it violated the recently declared city order to exclude children who are not vaccinated against measles.

According to the city’s health department, the center in Williamsburg, United Talmudical Academy, repeatedly failed to “provide access to medical and attendance records, making it impossible for the Department to determine whether the child care program has been excluding children and staff as required.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in four zip codes in Brooklyn last week, in an attempt to tackle the city’s worst measles outbreak since 1991. It has affected mainly the local Haredi community.

>> Read more: Why Orthodox Jewish communities are at the center of a U.S. measles outbreak ■ Unvaccinated children face public space ban in New York measles outbreak 

Under the declaration, every child over 6 months in the affected areas is required to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Those who do not have evidence of immunity could be fined $1,000. Schools are also required to only accept vaccinated children and to maintain medical and attendance records on site, as well as provide the authorities with immediate access.

The United Talmudical Academy is the first program to be closed under the order, but 23 yeshivas and day care programs in Brooklyn have received Notices of Violations for not following the school exclusion order, the City’s Health Department said.

“Health Department staff will monitor the school to ensure it is following the closure order and the center will not be allowed to reopen until its staff have submitted a corrective action plan approved by the Department,” the official statement said.

To date, 329 cases of measles have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak last October. Forty-four additional cases were added since last week’s emergency declaration.

The majority of cases are children. So far, no deaths associated with the outbreak have been recorded. However, the city stressed that some patients have experienced complications, including 25 hospitalizations and six admissions to the intensive care unit.

“While we expect to see an increase in case count over the next several weeks due to exposures that occurred prior to the emergency declaration, we know that increasing vaccination rates is the definitive path to ending this outbreak,” Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Dr. Herminia Palacio, said. “Nevertheless, it is simultaneously important to keep unvaccinated children from attending school during this outbreak. We must use all public health tools at our disposal.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot added that “this outbreak will continue to worsen, and the case count will grow if child care programs and schools do not follow our direction.”

“It’s crucial in this outbreak that child care programs and schools maintain up-to-date and accurate immunization and attendance records. It’s the only way we can make sure schools are properly keeping unvaccinated students and staff out of child care centers to hasten the end of this outbreak,” she continued.

Some in the city have expressed opposition to the emergency order. A group of parents in Williamsburg are even challenging it legally. The group’s lawyer, Michael Sussman, claims the order is an overreach of authority.