The American Camping Association is trying to stop Rockland County from gathering medical information on summer campers and staff as part of emergency orders to combat measles.
The ACA’s New York chapter filed a lawsuit July 1 in federal court in White Plains, against the Health Department, Commissioner of Health Patricia S. Ruppert and five members of the board of health, challenging the constitutionality of June 24 orders requiring camps to compile and submit extensive records every week.
The requirements, ACA Executive Director Susie Lupert states in a court pleading, “could be devastating to our members’ continued operations in this 2019 summer season and beyond.”
John G. Lyon, a spokesman for Rockland County, responded, “The county’s efforts to get the info it needs to protect the public is not an infringement of (their) rights. They are concerned about protecting their customer lists. It is the height of vanity to believe that the county has any interests whatsoever in their businesses.”
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications, and even death. It can be prevented with vaccines.
As of July 8, there were 278 confirmed measles cases in Rockland.
The outbreak began in October and has been traced to seven unvaccinated travelers returning from Israel. The disease has been concentrated in Monsey and Spring Valley, where schools and day-care facilities had low vaccination rates.
County Executive Edwin J. Day declared a local state of emergency in March and has extended it four times. The May 26 declaration states that 25 percent of the measles cases nationwide are in Rockland.
On June 4, the health department issued mandatory orders, requiring proof of vaccinations or immunity to measles, mumps and rubella for campers and staff. The orders were issued without legislation or input or discussion from the camps, three weeks before the camps opened.
The ACA represents 400 summer camps in the Northeast, including 17 in Rockland. Its members, according to the complaint, already comply with health and safety regulations and have passed inspections before opening. It claims there are only three active measles cases now and there have been no reports of infections or exposures among campers or staffs.
The state already requires camps to keep medical records on file, including immunizations, according to the complaint. The county is demanding records to be submitted weekly by unsecured facsimile transmissions, and the rules provide for no protections, the ACA claims, on the use or dissemination of confidential information.
A camp’s operating permit can be revoked and the camp can be fined up to $2,000 a day, for failure to comply.
Lupert stated that the ACA supports proposed legislation that would require children to be fully immunized before attending summer camps.
But the requirement to submit confidential medical records to the county, the ACA claims, violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, as well as state constitutional rights.
The rules do not apply to single-use camps, such as sports camps, or to municipal playground programs. Those programs compete with the ACA camps, according to the complaint. Moreover, three health board members allegedly work for or represent summer camps or summer programs that are exempt from the orders.
“We have no interest in their business dealings,” county spokesman Lyon said. “Our interest is in preserving the public health of everyone within this county, and of the campers and staff who come here from outside the county.”
The ACA wants the court to bar the county from enforcing the orders.
The association is represented by Donald J. Feerick Jr., Patrick A. Knowles and Mary E. Marzolla of Ferrick Nugent MacCartney of South Nyack.