Summer hasn’t been all that fun for the Bergers.
In June, the Plainview, LI, family passed up a trip to Los Angeles because they were fearful their 4-month-old daughter would be exposed to measles at the airport or aboard the plane.
“We sat home and sulked,” mom Lindsey Berger, who also has a 5-year-old son, tells The Post. “We were devastated.”
The family is also drastically limiting their local outings. They’re skipping the Coney Island aquarium, despite having a pricey membership for the attraction, and, at the Bronx Zoo, they’re missing out on apes and gators to avoid the zoo’s indoor areas. When they visit their vacation home upstate in Highland Lake, they hardly go anywhere, including a new indoor water park that the kids would probably love.
“When we go up there, we don’t allow the baby to leave the house,” says Berger, 36. “I don’t want [her] touching any surface — or getting sneezed on or something.”
With 619 confirmed cases of measles in New York City since September 2018, and 30 new cases recorded last month alone in the five boroughs and Rockland County, concerns about the contagious virus are putting a damper on summer fun. The typically carefree season has gone from a time of playdates and excursions to one of isolation and fear. Families are canceling travel plans, avoiding popular amusements and even splitting up in the name of measles prevention for tiny tots, especially those under 6 months old who are too young for the measles vaccine.
“We can’t take the risk,” says Berger. “We definitely altered a lot of plans based on measles.”
Some families are splitting up to keep their kids safe. Union Square pediatrician Dyan Hes says a 6-month-old patient’s mother recently decided to skip a family trip to Italy out of fear for the baby. (Italy has seen an uptick in measles cases, from 251 in 2015 to 2,600 cases reported this year through March, according to the World Health Organization.) Mother and infant stayed home, while the dad and the 3-year-old son went to Italy alone. “People are that scared,” says Hes.
Meanwhile, the Upchurches, a family of five from Fredericksburg, Va., have postponed a relocation to New York out of fear for their youngest child, 13-month-old Mack. Dad moved into a three-bedroom Washington Heights rental in June to start a new job as a government contractor, while the rest of the family is remaining in Virginia until August, when Mack can be fully inoculated. (He’s had one round of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as the MMR, and will soon get the second and final round.)
It’s hardly the summer mother Kimberlie Upchurch envisioned.
“I was so excited to move. I have a new stroller and [baby] carrier for the city. We were all packed,” she says. “It sucks — he’s up there, and we’re down here . . . We can’t [even] visit him.”
Other families are uprooting the whole clan to avoid measles. One Williamsburg mom of a 4-month-old was too on edge in New York, and decided that she, her husband, who has a flexible work situation, and the new baby should spend the summer in California.
“I thought I was being careful enough in New York, but the doctor suggested I even avoid grocery stores,” says the mom who asked to be kept anonymous for personal reasons. “Every time I ran an errand, it felt like I was taking an unnecessary risk,” she says. “Being away just gives us peace of mind . . . It’s been great to be out and about with the baby without feeling like I’m doing something wrong.”
Steven Goldstein, a pediatrician with practices in Williamsburg and Kew Gardens Hills, believes the precautions people are taking are “not crazy,” he says. While the first round of the MMR vaccine has typically been given to children at age 1, it’s now being recommended that babies as young as 6 months get vaccinated, if they are in or near infected areas or traveling by plane. Children younger than 6 months can’t be vaccinated, and, Goldstein says, “in affected communities, isolating babies who can’t be immunized yet is always wise.”
Susan Reddan’s 2-year-old son Mason is fully vaccinated, but she still takes precautions. She avoids running too many errands with him, lest he be exposed to an infected person at the post office or drugstore. When they go to the Walmart near their home in Blooming Grove, NY, she doesn’t allow him to hop on the small rides outside the store — despite his pleas.
“I’d have to clean [them] so carefully,” says the 37-year-old merchant with a sigh.
“This whole thing has really caused us to avoid public places in general,” she says. “It’s the biggest pain ever — but not as much of a pain as measles, I’m sure.”
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