City closes two Williamsburg yeshivas that allowed unvaccinated kids to attend class

Five Williamsburg residents are suing NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, right, to block her emergency health declaration fining unvaccinated residents of the Orthodox Jewish enclave.
Photo by Paul Martinka

The city announced on Monday the closure of two Williamsburg yeshivas as punishment for allowing unvaccinated kids to attend class, as an outbreak of the highly contagious measles virus continues to sweep through Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities.

The schools — Tiferes Bnos at 585 Marcy Ave. and Talmud Torah D’Nitra at 1007 Bedford Ave. — violated a neighborhood-wide emergency order issued by Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot and announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio on April 9 in a bid to stem the spread of the potentially fatal illness, which has infected 423 people in Brooklyn, including 348 cases in Williasmburg.

The city previously closed five other Williamsburg Jewish academies for admitting unvaccinated kids, and refusing to provide inspectors with medical and attendance records, including one Williamsburg yeshiva that inspectors have connected to more than 40 cases since January.

In addition to empowering the Health Department to close schools, Commissioner Barbot’s emergency declaration authorized inspectors to issue $1,000 fines to unvaccinated residents of four Williamsburg zip codes — 11205, 11206, 11211, and 11249 — and the agency’s so-called “disease detectives” have tracked down 57 people who allowed themselves, or their children to go without inoculation.

A group of five Williamsburg parents sued the city in Kings County Supreme Court earlier this month for the right to not vaccinate themselves, but Judge Lawrence Knipel dismissed the case on April 18.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was disappointed by the judges decision, but that he’s filed an appeal and is hopeful that a higher justice will issue a preliminary injunction eliminating, or reducing the fine on May 6.

Five Brooklyn measles cases — including the original infection discovered in October — were traced back to trips from Israel, where another measles outbreak infected more than 1,000 people last year.

Barbot earlier this month described this as the largest outbreak of the measles that New York City has experienced since 1991, but the disease has since spread by well over 100 additional cases.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne pathogen that produces symptoms including fever, cough, and a runny nose, and can cause diarrhea, ear infection, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death — with about 1 of every 1,367 kids infected dying due to fatal complications from measles.

Symptoms can appear anytime from seven to 21 days following exposure, according to the Health Department.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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