The Rise of Punitive Epidemic Response — from Measles in a Small Jewish Community in NYC in 2019 to COVID-19 Nationwide

This is an expanded version of the article Precedent for Punitive Epidemic Responses: New York City’s Response to Measles in 2019, published in the Trial Site News on February 28, 2022.

The 2019 measles outbreak in New York City and State resulted in 900 cases. Two-thirds of them happened in the “ultra”-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, NYC. Contrary to the dominant narrative, the affected community was sufficiently vaccinated. I have published the results as a preprint for a scientific review (the Measles–NYC–2019 preprint).

The outbreak was driven mainly by the NYC government’s incompetent and unfriendly actions. There were 16 imported cases in 2019. There were no religious objections to vaccinations, except for a few individual objections. The average vaccination levels in Brooklyn’s “ultra”-Orthodox yeshivas were 96%, the same as in other private schools prior to the outbreak in September 2018. Many catch-up vaccinations were done in October–November after the declaration of the outbreak (Measles–NYC–2019, lines 145–155). By the beginning of 2019, the Orthodox and “ultra”-Orthodox communities of NYC were probably among the most vaccinated in the US, well above the herd immunity threshold. Such a large and long outbreak could not have happened naturally. Measles outbreaks are easily controlled, even at low vaccination levels of 60–80%, as was done in the 1980s (Measles–NYC–2019, lines 115–128).

The affected Jewish community overwhelmingly supported President Donald Trump. There were elections in November. Then, the attitude of the NYC government changed.

On December 6, NYC issued an unprecedented letter excluding all unvaccinated children from yeshivas (sic) in about a dozen zip codes in Brooklyn. Thus, NYC restricted the unvaccinated children to their homes and other spaces together with those infected, and babies that were too young for vaccination. This action negated the herd immunity that had been achieved in the yeshivas. There were fewer than 60 cases at that time. By the end of the outbreak in July 2019, the number had increased to 600 cases.

On February 28, 2019, NYC issued special rules and guidelines for “Providers [doctors and nurses-LG] serving the affected Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn.” The guidelines included vaccinating babies as young as 6 months, even though the CDC recommended MMR vaccination age is 12–15 months, and MMR vaccination of infants under 12 months is known to be harmful (see this peer reviewed meta-analysis, this recent study, and Measles–NYC–2019, lines 133–137). This directive also demanded that doctors follow NYC guidelines rather than their professional judgment and moral guidance.

On April 8–9, 2019, NYC issued a press release, that singled out Jews with the following statement: “The measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish community is now at 285 cases since it began last October.” It was followed by a Commissioner’s Order, mandating measles vaccination for Jews (the four zip codes in the Order are predominantly Jewish), including 6 month-olds. The Order read in part:

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that any person who lives, works, or resides within the 11205, 11206, 11211 and/or 11249 zip codes and who has not received the MMR vaccine within forty eight (48) hours of this Order being signed by me shall be vaccinated against measles unless such person can demonstrate immunity to the disease or document to the satisfaction of the Department that he or she should be medically exempt from this requirement.”

These documents seem to belong to a different epoch in a different country. MSM was silent or cheerleading.

Bu this article is about the present. The NYC public health personnel, who aggravated the measles outbreak of 2018–2019, took credit for its handling. In early 2020, it handled COVID-19, and New York became the COVID-19 epicenter and super-spreader. New York’s COVID-19 response likely influenced the CDC.

Some of the most unusual and damaging COVID-19 policies, imposed by the “deep state” and Democrat governors, resemble the NYC government’s exploitation of the measles outbreak, albeit on a much larger scale. Among them:

  • The use of epidemics for power grabbing.
  • Coercing physicians to withdraw the best treatment from their patients. During the measles outbreak, the NYC government suppressed the use of Immunoglobulin (Measles–NYC–2019, lines 26, 258). In the COVID-19 outbreak, New York and other Democratic strongholds (including Big Tech) suppressed the use of hydroxychloroquine. Hydroxychloroquine was widely used for COVID-19 before Trump’s endorsement and Trump haters started attacking the effective drug in late March 2020.
  • Excessive emphasis on vaccination.
  • An irrational belief in the power of “healthcare misinformation.” People are not stupid when their and their children’s health is at stake.

Remember Dr. Zelenko? He was the first to add Zinc to the Hydroxychloroquine + Azythromycin treatment for COVID-19. The stigma against Orthodox Jews that was created by progressives in recent years played an enormous role in rejecting his contribution. Moreover, his practice consisted mostly of Satmar Hasids from Kiryas Joel. Satmar Hasids were the majority in the community targeted by NYC in 2019.

Soon after Dr. Zelenko started posting his videos on YouTube, YouTube went to remove them with defamatory language, and the Kiryas Joel population was harassed (see this letter from its leadership, pp. 12). Dr. Zelenko had to quit his Monroe and Kiryas Joel practice, which was another blow to hydroxychloroquine treatment.

These events could not happen without modern social media platforms and Google. They played a central role in defamation of the Jewish communities of New York. According to a statement from Agudath Israel of America: “Social media comments have been particularly appalling.

Social media platforms demeaned Brooklyn Jews directly (YouTube example), and through paid mouthpieces, such as the New York Times. I cannot put all the blame on the NYC government because it operated in the information space, distorted by the Big Tech. This information space also muffled and distorted the voices of the targeted population.

This is not to disparage measles or MMR vaccines. They work, unlike the currently marketed vaccines for COVID-19. See more in the Measles–NYC–2019 preprint, containing 10 pages and 54 references.

On the eve of the elections, Twitter created and ran in the New York the trend “Kill all Jews”. It was not information received from a third party. In my estimation, Twitter employees have deliberately changed the code to display this phrase.