- New York City has declared a public health emergency following a severe measles outbreak, largely in Brooklyn.
- Residents of the Williamsburg neighborhood will be required to be vaccinated against measles, or else they will have to pay a fine.
- This has received some backlash, but Mayor Bill De Blasio maintains that this is both legal, and the only way to combat the issue.
Public Health Emergency in NYC
Mayor Bill De Blasio declared a public health emergency in New York City in response to the recent measles outbreak.
The measles outbreak began in the city in October, and since then there have been 285 confirmed cases of the disease. This is a very large increase, as there were only two cases of the diseases in New York City throughout all of 2017.
The outbreak is most severe in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where a vast majority of the cases have been reported. De Blasio is mandating that everyone in four zip codes in and near the area get the MMR vaccine, which according to the disease, is 97% effective. Those who do not will have to pay a $1,000 fine.
During a press conference in Williamsburg, De Blasio insisted that vaccines were the only way to stop the measles from spreading throughout the city.
“We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback in New York City. We have to stop it now,” he said. “The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that those who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine. It’s crucial for people to understand that the measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time tested.”
The Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, specifically children, have experienced the most cases of the measles. In December, the city mandated that schools, daycares, and yeshivas, which are Orthodox Jewish schools, had to turn away kids who were not vaccinated. Forty patients alone have come from one yeshiva that did not follow this order.
According to the Commissioner for New York City’s Department of Health, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community largely approve of vaccines. However, anti-vax beliefs have still spread, causing lower vaccination rates.
Dr. Barbot blames this movement for the outbreak.
“This outbreak is being fueled by a small group of anti-vaxxers in these neighborhoods,” she said in a statement. “They have been spreading dangerous misinformation based on fake science. We stand with the majority of people in this community who have worked hard to protect their children and those at risk.”
Measles Parties on the Rise
Dr. Barbot also spoke out against “measles parties,” which are situations where parents of unvaccinated children expose their kids to someone who already has measles. This was a popular practice before vaccines were widespread, as many think that by exposing their child to the disease, they will build their immunity.
However, this has not actually been scientifically proven to be effective. In fact, this can actually just result in your child getting the measles, as the disease is highly contagious. Health officials are concerned that this fad is coming back into fashion for New Yorkers.
“We are concerned about families having measles parties,” said Dr. Barbot. “I know that parents may be afraid of getting their child vaccinated, but as a pediatrician, I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting measles.”
The CDC’s Disease Detectives
New York City will be using “disease detectives” from the CDC to both enforce this mandate and to stop the spread of measles throughout the city.
Like their quirky name suggests, disease detectives investigate the spread of measles through various stages of questioning, and other kinds of research. On their site, the CDC describes their role by saying, “Like investigators at the scene of a crime, these disease detectives begin by looking for clues.”
They work to anwer four main questions: Who is sick?; What are their symptoms?; When did they get sick?; And where could they have been exposed to the illness? They then try to learn who else could have been exposed, and figure out if these people have been vaccinated.
Reactions to Plans
The city’s plan to prevent the spread of measles has been met with mixed opinions. Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, questioned whether or not this was within Mayor De Blasio’s power.
“The city’s order provides that people will be vaccinated without their consent, an extreme measure which is not provided for in the law and raises civil liberties concerns about forced medical treatment,” she said in a statement.
“In addressing this public health crisis, the government is required to pursue the least restrictive means possible to balance individual autonomy with the public health risk. In this case, measures such as a quarantine or penalties for non-vaccination may be permissible, but forced vaccination is not.”
A spokeswoman for City Hall, Marcy Miranda, countered this idea and told the New York Times that they will not be physically forcing anyone to get the MMR vaccine.
“We will not be forcibly vaccinating individuals,” she said. “(Officials) will work with people to educate them about the safety and importance of vaccines and will issue necessary fines as needed.”
De Blasio also maintained his right to mandate vaccinations during his press conference, saying, “We are absolutely certain we have the power to do this.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC 7) (The Hill)
Supreme Court Rejects Third Challenge to Affordable Care Act
In the 7-2 decision, the justices argued the Republican-led states that brought the challenge forth failed to show how the law caused injury and thus had no legal standing.
SCOTUS Issues Opinion on Individual Mandate
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the third Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act to ever reach the high court.
The issue at hand was the provision of the law, commonly known as Obamacare, that requires people to either purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty: the so-called individual mandate.
The individual mandate has been one of the most controversial parts of Obamacare and it has already been before SCOTUS, which upheld the provision in 2012 on the grounds that it amounted to a tax and thus fell under Congress’ taxing power.
However, as part of the sweeping 2017 tax bill, the Republican-held Congress set the penalty for not having health care to $0. As a result, a group of Republican-led states headed by Texas sued, arguing that because their GOP colleagues made the mandate zero dollars, it no longer raised revenues and could not be considered a tax, thus making it unconstitutional.
The states also argued that the individual mandate is such a key part of Obamacare that it could not be separated without getting rid of the entire law.
The Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument in a 7-2 decision, with Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting.
Majority Opinion Finds No Injury
In the majority decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Republican states had no grounds to sue because they could not show how they were harmed by their own colleagues zeroing out the penalty.
“There is no possible government action that is causally connected to the plaintiffs’ injury — the costs of purchasing health insurance,” he wrote, adding that the states “have not demonstrated that an unenforceable mandate will cause their residents to enroll in valuable benefits programs that they would otherwise forgo.”
Breyer also argued that because of this, the court did not need to decide on the broader issue of whether the 2017 tax bill rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional and if that provision could be separated from the ACA.
The highly anticipated decision will officially keep Obamacare as the law of the land, ensuring that the roughly 20 million people enrolled still have health insurance. While there may be other challenges to the law hard-fought by conservatives, this latest ruling sends a key signal about the limits of the Republican efforts to achieve their agenda through the high court, even with the strong conservative majority.
While the court has now struck down challenges to Obamacare three times, Thursday’s decision marked the largest margin of victory of all three challenges to the ACA.
For now, the ACA appears to be fairly insulated from legal challenges, though it will still likely face more. In a tweet following the SCOTUS decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) vowed to keep fighting Obamacare, adding that the individual mandate “was unconstitutional when it was enacted and it is still unconstitutional.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Utah Student With Down Syndrome Left Out of Cheer Squad’s Yearbook Photo
The move marks the second time in three years that Morgyn Arnold has been left out of the school’s yearbook. Two years ago, it failed to include her in the class list.
Two Photos Take, One Without Morgyn Arnold
A Utah school has apologized after a student with Down syndrome at Shoreline Junior High was excluded from her cheerleading squad’s yearbook photo.
The squad took two official team portraits this year. The first included 14-year-old Morgyn Arnold, who had been working as the team manager but attended practices and cheered alongside her other teammates at every home game. The second imsgr did not include her and ended up being the photo the school used across social media and in its yearbook.
Arnold was heartbroken by the decision and her family believed it was made because of her disability.
In social media posts about the move, Arnold’s sister, Jordyn Poll, noted that Arnold “spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out.”
“I hope that no one ever has to experience the heartbreak that comes when the person they love comes home from school devastated and shows them that they’re not in the picture with their team,” she continued.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Poll also said this marked the second time in three years that her sister has been left out of the yearbook. Two years ago, the school failed to include her in the class list.
School Apologizes After Backlash
After Poll’s public call out picked up attention, the school said it was “deeply saddened by the mistake.”
“Apologies have been made to the family, and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error,” it added. “We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice.”
The district issued a similar statement, claiming it was looking into why this occurred to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
But Poll said this isn’t the same response her family received when they initially contacted school administrators. Instead, Poll told the Tribune that an employee at the school “blatantly said they didn’t know what we were expecting of them and there was nothing they could do.”
The school has since contacted them again “to make the situation right.”
Meanwhile, Poll stressed that her sister’s teammates had nothing to do with the decision, defending the girls as amazing friends who have done everything to make Arnold feel included.
In fact, they too were disappointed to see that she was not featured in the image or even named as a member of the team in the yearbook.
Arnold’s family decided to speak up about the issue so that this school and others can improve the ways they interact with and include students with disabilities. Different forms of exclusion happen at schools across the country, and this story has prompted other parents of kids with disabilities to share similar experiences.
This kind of thing happens all the time. I can't count the number of times our son has been excluded, or nearly excluded, from events and pictures and related social activities in his 8 years of school. I know this fury.— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) June 16, 2021
A staff attorney at the Disability Law Center of Utah told the Tribune that it receives about 4,000 complaints each year. Some complaints stemmed from students with disabilities being separated into other classrooms without their peers. Others include name-calling or not allowing students on a team or in a club.
Thankfully, Arnold has not let this situation bring her down. According to her family, she has already forgiven everyone involved and plans to continue cheering alongside her friends.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Salt Lake Tribune) (NBC News)
Ex-Shake Shack Manager Sues NYPD Over False Milkshake Poisoning Allegations
The former manager is accusing the police department and its unions of false arrest and defamation relating to the viral incident last summer.
Former Shack Shack Employee Sues One Year Later
The former manager of a New York City Shake Shack restaurant who was falsely accused of poisoning several law enforcement officers’ milkshakes last summer is now suing the city’s police department, its unions, and individual officers.
On June 15, 2020, three officers monitoring the anti-racism protests in Lower Manhattan entered a Shake Shack location for milkshakes, which they later claimed had been poisoned, likely by bleach.
By the end of the night, investigators determined that no one had tampered with the drinks, and the New York Police Department declared there was “no criminality.” Police later said the officers were possibly sickened by a cleaning solution that had not been properly cleaned out of the machines, though Shake Shack claimed it did not find leaks of any foreign substances.
Before that lack of criminality was determined and while the inquiry was ongoing, the police unions and their leaders accused the Shake Shack workers of launching a targeted attack in a series of tweets, which were then shared and discussed widely on social media by prominent conservatives.
The resulting outcome was widespread condemnation and deleting of tweets. Now, almost exactly a year later, the former manager of that Shake Shack, Marcus Gilliam, has accused the parties involved of false arrest and defamation.
According to his lawsuit, the three officers — who are referred to as Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake, and Cherry Shake — ordered the drinks via mobile app, meaning the employees could not have known cops placed the order.
Additionally, the documents state the order was “already packaged and waiting for pickup” when the officers arrived, making it impossible for Gilliam or any other employee to have added anything to the shakes when they saw the officers come in to claim them.
After the officers complained about the taste of the milkshakes and threw them out, Gilliam said he apologized and offered them vouchers for free replacements, which they accepted. However, they still told their Sergeant that Gilliam had put a “toxic substance” in their drinks, even though they had disposed of any evidence.
Claims of Wrongful Detainment
The court documents go on to say that another officer arrived and detained the employees, who cooperated with the officer’s investigation. That process included interviews, searches, and tests, which showed no evidence of bleach or other toxins.
The NYPD also conducted a review of security footage, which independently determined that none of the employees put any kind of toxic substances in the officer’s drinks.
Despite all that, and even after the three officers were released from a hospital “without ever showing symptoms,” the NYPD still arrested Gilliam and brought him into the precinct, the suit stated.
Once in the precinct, the former manager was allegedly “interrogated for approximately one to two hours” and detained for around three hours, putting the total time he was detained by police in both the store and the precinct at approximately five to six hours.
Gilliam’s attorney is arguing that the officers had no probable cause or warrants for his arrest. An arrest that the lawsuit says caused him to suffer “emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation,” as well as economic damages from legal fees and missed wages, for which he is seeking both punitive and monetary damages.
None of the defendants have responded to requests for comment from the media.