ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - As part of their efforts to contain a significant measles outbreak, officials in New York closed more schools, issued more fines and lobbied the Legislature Monday to eliminate religious exemptions for required vaccinations.
Federal officials have reported 704 measles cases so far in the U.S. since Jan. 1, the most since 1994, which saw 963 cases during the whole year. New York City and suburban Rockland County account for the majority of the cases, almost all among members of Orthodox Jewish communities.
New York City's health department said Monday it has now issued summonses to 57 people for failing to abide by an emergency order issued this month requiring people living in certain parts of Brooklyn to get the measles vaccine.
If those citations are upheld at a hearing, each person could get slapped with a $1,000 fine.
The city said it had closed two more schools for failing to exclude students who couldn't prove they had been vaccinated, raising the total number of closed schools to seven.
And in the state capital, Rockland County Executive Ed Day joined lawmakers at an event supporting the repeal of a state law allowing exemptions to immunizations based on religious beliefs.
Day, a Republican who's Rockland County's top elected official, urged for the passage of the bill eliminating the religious exemption from vaccination as soon as possible.
"This bill would be a godsend," Day said during a news conference at the state Capitol. "To wait is a recipe for medical disaster."
The New York Alliance For Vaccine Rights, a Long Island-based group that opposes the legislation, said the bill would violate longstanding rights of "religious practices and bodily autonomy."