- Officials in Rockland County New York have imposed a 30-day state of emergency that bans unvaccinated minors from public spaces.
- The move comes after Rockland reported 153 measles cases, 84 percent of which were found in people 18 and under.
- Officials say the move is mostly to get public attention and hold parents accountable, but if parents are caught with an unvaccinated child in public they could receive up to six months in jail or fines of $500.
State of Emergency
Officials in Rockland County New York declared a state of emergency on Tuesday that effectively bans all unvaccinated children under the age of 18 from being allowed in public places.
The state of emergency is set to last 30 days until April 25. This means that unvaccinated minors cannot be in a public space until they receive at least one vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), or until the 30 days are up.
The declaration defines a “public place” as anywhere in public where more than ten people are congregated. Notably, that includes schools, stores and restaurants, places of worship, and public transit.
The only exceptions to the ban are for the purpose of medical care, immunizations, and public appearances required by law, like attendance at court. However the declaration does require parents or guardians to call in advance and inform these places that their children are unvaccinated.
While there is no way to formally enforce the ban, officials have said that that not really the point of the declaration.
In a press conference, Rockland County Executive Ed Day said that the move is intended to get people’s attention and hold parents accountable.
“There will not be law enforcement or deputy sheriffs asking for your vaccination records, that is ridiculous,” said Day, “However, if you are found to be in violation of this declaration your case will be referred to the district attorneys office, that just comes with the emergency declaration and is prescribed by law.”
Day also said that the effort is intended to focus on the parents of unvaccinated children, stating, “We are urging them, once again, now with the authority of law, to get your children vaccinated.”
While the point of the declaration is not to crack down on people who have not vaccinated their kids, parents who are found to have allowed their unvaccinated kids in public places during the 30-day prohibition can face up to six months in jail or fines of $500
Measles Outbreak in Rockland County
The declaration comes after unprecedented outbreaks in New York City, Rockland County, and Orange County, which the state’s health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker called “the worst measles outbreak in recent history in New York state.”
Following the initial reports in January, nearly two out of every three of all measles cases were in Rockland County, which had reported at least 105 cases at the time.
In response to the outbreak, Rockland closed more than two dozen schools and daycare centers that had low vaccination rates.
In order for vaccines to be effective, around 90 percent of people have to be vaccinated. In January, it was reported that some private schools in Rockland County had vaccination rates around 50 percent.
However, since January, the situation in Rockland has only gotten worse. As of Mar. 26, the county reported 153 confirmed cases of measles.
Of those confirmed cases, over 84 percent were 18 years and younger, and 82 percent of people infected had never received an MMR vaccination.
While some have said Rockland’s ban is extreme, the county has tried a wide variety of actions for months, and the outbreak has only spread more.
In addition to the executive order that pulled nearly 6,000 unvaccinated children out of schools, Rockland County has also administered nearly 17,000 doses of the MRR vaccine over the course of 26 weeks.
There was also a public health campaign during which community officials, doctors, and rabbis all testified about the importance of immunizations.
Rockland has increased their vaccination rate, but only 72.9 percent of kids between the ages of one and 18 are vaccinated in the county, according to Day.
Day also said that when county officials tried to trace the outbreak, members of the community dismissed them, refused to answer questions, and hung up their phones.
Many public health officials have said Rockland County’s actions make a lot of sense.
However, unsurprisingly, the ban of unvaccinated children in public spaces has already received some backlash.
The outbreak is more widespread in the Orthodox Jewish community, which has a lower vaccination rate, according to Day.
A Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, who founded a yeshiva in Rockland, said while he strongly supports vaccinations, he was also concerned the declaration could lead to potential harassment and discrimination against ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Some public health law experts are also concerned that the declaration infringes on civil liberties.
Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, questioned whether or not the move was constitutional.
“This is virtually imprisonment of a child, and certainly significantly restricting the child’s liberty,” said Gostin.
However, similar decisions in Rockland have been upheld in other cases.
Back in December, Rockland banned unvaccinated students from schools where less than 95 percent of the students were vaccinated. A group of parents responded by suing the county health department, but a federal judge ruled the school ban could stay earlier this month.
That said, this constitutional argument could be persuasive to anti-vaccination groups that would want to challenge the declaration, even if it only is for 30 days.
This is significant because Day has said he believes Rocklands ban is the first of its kind the US, and a number of public health experts have backed up that claim.
If Rockland’s prohibition works, it could set an example for other counties and states.
“I think this definitely could be a new trend as we have more unvaccinated children,” said Leila Barraza, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health. “If there’s evidence this has worked, then I think it will probably be tried again.”
For more information about measles visit the CDC’s website.
California Parents Who Starved and Shackled Their Children Sentenced to Life in Prison.
- Louise and David Turpin, the parents who pled guilty to locking up and abusing their children, have been sentenced to life in prison.
- The abuse included beating, starving, and chaining up 12 of their 13 children, among other acts.
- The couple has the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Louise and David Turpin Receive Life Sentence
The California couple who pled guilty to locking up and abusing 12 of their 13 children were sentenced to life in prison on Friday.
Both Louise and David Turpin pled guilty to fourteen charges of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment, and false imprisonment in February. They were charged with the crimes in January 2018, when one of the children escaped from their Perris, California home. The child climbed out of a window and eventually alerted police of the situation.
The Turpin children ranged in age from two to 29-years-old at the time they were found in the house. Of the 13 kids, only the youngest appeared to have never been subject to abuse.
The Turpins chained their children to beds and other furniture, starved them, beat them. They would sometimes keep them chained for months at a time, not allowing them access to the bathroom.
The children were only allowed to shower once a year and seldom left the house. Their parents would also bake pies and not let the kids eat them and buy toys and not let the kids open or play with them. The abuse lasted for over a decade.
The Turpin’s Speak Out
The Turpins’ life sentence leaves them with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Louise Turpin spoke at the sentencing in Riverside County Superior Court, apologizing for the pain she caused her children.
“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” she said. “I want them to know that mom and dad are going to be ok.”
David Turin also had a prepared statement, but it was read by his attorney, as he was too emotional to deliver it himself.
“I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” his attorney read on his behalf.
Judge Bernard J. Schwartz condemned them both for their actions and spoke about the long-term effects of their abuse.
“Their lives have been permanently altered in their ability to learn, grow and thrive,” he said in court. “What the parents did was selfish, cruel, inhumane treatment.”
The Children Share Statements
The children, who have not been named since the case was first reported, also had a chance to speak in court.
“My parents took my whole life from me, now I’m taking my life back,” one daughter, who is now a college student, said. “Life may have been bad, but it made me strong.”
One son said he still often thinks about what he and his siblings went through.
“Sometimes, I still have nightmares of things that have happened,” he read. “Like my siblings getting chained up or beaten.”
Another child was sympathetic to their parents and expressed that they believed the Turpins deserved less jail time.
“I think 25 years is too long,” the child read in a statement. “I believe our parents did their best to raise all 13 of us.”
U.S. Labeled ‘Problematic’ Place for Journalists
- Reporters Without Borders dropped the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180 countries on its annual World Press Freedom Index.
- The ranking is three places lower than it was last year, changing the U.S. label from “satisfactory” to “problematic.”
- The Index states that increased threats against journalists in the U.S. are becoming more normalized.
- The report specifically cites the U.S. ranking as “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”
World Press Freedom Index
The United States has been ranked as a “problematic” place for journalists, as the threats they face continue to become more standard, according to a new report about press freedom.
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index, an annual report compiled by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders (RWB), downgraded the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180. The ranking is three spots lower than its place last year.
The downgrade officially changes the press freedom status of the U.S. from “satisfactory” to “problematic,” marking the first time the country has received that label.
#RSFIndex: For the first time, the #UnitedStates is coloured orange (“problematic”) on the World Press Freedom Map.— RSF (@RSF_inter) April 18, 2019
A man opened fire inside a newsroom, killing five people, but @realDonaldTrump continued to systematically denigrate the media.https://t.co/QYCSKKs2xB pic.twitter.com/uVObO1wwVH
“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” the report said.
According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 10 journalists have faced physical attacks this year, and 46 journalists were physically attacked in 2017.
The World Press Freedom Index report also cited the five journalists who were shot and killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland last June. The attack was carried out by a man who had threatened the publication for years before the attack.
The report also cited the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey last October.
The section of the report on North America specifically stated that the drop in rankings was “marred by the effects of President Donald Trump’s second year in office.”
“Amid one of the American journalism community’s darkest moments,” the report said.“President Trump continued to spout his notorious anti-press rhetoric, disparaging and attacking the media at a national level.”
Since being elected, Trump has referred to journalists as the “enemy of the American people,” and continuously accused nearly every mainstream media outlet of reporting “fake news.” He has also commended violence against journalists, like giving praise to a GOP congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017.
According to the report, Trump has also called for the revocation of broadcasting licenses and attempted to block certain media outlets from access to the White House. In November, the Trump administration was forced to restore the press credentials of a CNN reporter that had been stripped of his pass after a heated exchange with Trump.
Back in August, United Nations human rights leaders stated that Trump’s attacks have undermined press freedom, and increase the risk of violence against journalists.
“The president’s relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized,” RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan told NPR.
The Index also found that the Americas has experienced “the greatest deterioration” in its press freedom regional score.
This is not just because of the United States. The report also cited instances in Brazil, where journalists have been targeted by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro “both physically and online.” Experts often noted that Bolsonaro uses the same “fake news” refrain to discrediting negative media about him.
The report also stated that Mexico is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, noting that “at least ten journalists were murdered in 2018.”
RSF identified North Korea and Turkmenistan as the most dangerous countries for the media, stating that their governments control the flow of information and censor journalists who defy them by using tactics including arrest, torture or killing.
In contrast, Norway ranked as the safest country, a title it has held for the past three years. Finland received second place.
Only 24 percent of the 180 countries in the report were given the rank of being “safe” or “satisfactory” for the press. This is lower than the 2018 Index, which gave 26 percent of countries “safe” or “satisfactory” rankings.
“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”
Woman Wanted Over Columbine Threats Found Dead
- After a day-long manhunt, the woman who posed as a threat to Denver area schools has been found dead by FBI officials.
- Sol Pais was known to have an obsession with Columbine and had made credible threats to the area, causing schools to close on Wednesday as a result.
Woman Found After Search
Officials have confirmed that a woman whom FBI officials were searching for after allegedly making threats to Denver-area schools has been found dead.
On Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, Colorado Police, Jefferson County Police, and the Denver FBI were actively searching for an eighteen-year-old woman named Sol Pais.
At 10:44 a.m. local time, they announced that there was no longer a threat to the area, but did not say whether or not they had found Pais. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader confirmed at a press conference an hour later that she had been found dead on a search. The cause of death appeared to be a self-inflicted gun wound.
According to the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, Pais traveled from her home state of Florida to Colorado on Monday night and bought a shotgun and ammunition upon arriving. She was known to be “infatuated” with the school shooting that occurred at Columbine in 1999, killing 13 people. The twentieth anniversary of the tragic event is this week.
Authorities said Pais made threats that warranted investigation and was considered armed and dangerous. This prompted schools all school in the Denver Metropolitan area, where Columbine is located, to close on Wednesday. Several schools were also on lockdown on Tuesday afternoon.
The Denver FBI learned about Pais from the bureau’s Miami branch. They alerted the Denver branch of her travels, and of her past comments regarding Columbine, which have not been specified.
“She has expressed an infatuation with Columbine,” Dean Phillips, an FBI special agent said at a press conference on Tuesday. “With the events and shooting that happened tragically 20 years ago. Because of that, we were concerned.”
School Officials Look Forward
The superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, Dr. Jason Glass, thanked both school staff, as well as the public officers and officials who worked to find Pais.
“We are relieved that the threat to schools and the community is no longer present,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Executive of Safety and Security at Jeffco Public School, John McDonald, said that threats to this district are nothing new, but that everyone knew this was serious.
“We are used to threats at Columbine,” he said. “This felt different. This was different.”
The FBI is expected to hold a press conference later today. They are still processing the scene where Pais died.
Dr. Glass said that schools will be open tomorrow with extra safety and security measures on site.