According to multiple reports, Judge Lawrence Knipel’s decision means city health officials can move forward with their efforts to tackle the growing crisis in Williamsburg.
“The unvarnished truth is that these diagnoses represent the most significant spike in incidence of measles in the United States in many years,” Knipel wrote in his ruling, “and the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is at its epicenter.
“A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire,” he added. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion.”
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio responded in a statement that the administration was “confident” that the order was based on solid public health and legal ground.
“These tools were deployed in an appropriate and necessary manner in order to meet the significant public health risk posed by this ongoing measles outbreak,” Palacio said.
Also last Thursday, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued civil summonses, which are subject to fines, to three parents whose children were exposed to the measles and were unvaccinated as of April 12.
If the violation is upheld, the parents will be fined $1,000. Failing to appear at the hearing or responding to the summons will result in a $2,000 fine.
Under the commissioner’s emergency order, issued on April 9, adults and children who are six months and older who live, work or go to school in select zip codes in Williamsburg must receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The health department also issued closure orders for four schools in Williamsburg. The schools are located at 68-84 Harrison Avenue, 241 Keap Street, 590 Bedford Avenue and 720 Wythe Avenue.
United Talmudical Academy, located at 75 Ross Street, was reopened last Thursday under Health Department monitoring. The city shut down the school for two days for failing to provide access to vaccination and attendance records.
An additional 23 yeshivas and day care programs received Notice of Violations for not following the outbreak-related school exclusion order.
As of last Thursday, the measles outbreak has expanded to 359 confirmed cases, health officials said, including 284 cases of children under 18 years old.
“Because of measles’ long incubation period, we know this outbreak will get worse before it gets better,” said Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot. “However, we can turn the tide by people getting vaccinated. We urge everyone to protect their children and their fellow New Yorkers by getting vaccinated immediately.”
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” that those school sites will remain closed until they prove that all students are vaccinated.
The mayor said thanks to the city’s “aggressive measures,” including the emergency declaration, close to 1,000 kids in Williamsburg have received the MMR vaccination.
“This is really serious stuff and we’re doing to do more and more,” de Blasio said, “and be more and more aggressive until this crisis is over.”