ROCKLAND COUNTY, New York (WABC) -- A judge has ruled on behalf of several dozen parents who challenged Rockland County's emergency order banning children from public places unless they've been vaccinated against measles.
A state Supreme Court judge made the ruling Friday on the legality of Rockland County Executive Ed Day's order, which is part of efforts to stop a measles outbreak that has infected more than 160 people since October.
The 30-day order enacted on March 26 banned unvaccinated people under 18 years old from gathering places including schools, stores, churches and public transportation.
The lawsuit was filed by civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman on behalf of parents of unvaccinated students at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge. Sussman called Day's action "arbitrary and capricious."
The county attorney argued it was necessary to stop the contagious virus.
The judge granted a temporary injunction, which for the time being, will end the state of emergency. This means unvaccinated children will once again be allowed to go to school and out in public.
The judge said such emergency orders cannot exceed five days. He also noted that 166 measles cases in a population of 330,000 people over six months doesn't constitute an "epidemic" meriting an emergency declaration.
Day released the following statement after the ruling:
"While today's ruling by Judge Thorsen did not go as we had expected I want to commend those here in Rockland who have used this State of Emergency as an opportunity to get vaccinated and have conversations with their friends and neighbors about vaccination. We sought to find a new way to fight back against a disease that was eradicated almost 20 years ago and refused to sit idly by while those in Rockland were put at risk.
What has not changed is our message of urgency. While the court may not agree with our action in this case, the disease continues unabated. One would think that seeing 42 exposures at a local hospital would garner the attention and judicial support it warrants and it is my view that waiting for a medical catastrophe is ill advised, particularly given the fact that we can see it coming. The uptick we predicted when we enacted our Declaration of Emergency unfortunately has come to pass with 167 cases and counting. Our Department of Health will continue doing everything possible to stem the tide of this outbreak and I urge those who are still unsure about the merits of immunization to talk to their doctors. Free MMR vaccinations were once again provided by our Health Department today at a clinic in Haverstraw, and we will continue to work with the Health Department to encourage residents to get vaccinated. For additional vaccination locations, call our Health Department directly at 845 364-2497; or see your private physician. "
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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Judge rules against Rockland County's state of emergency over measles outbreak