California isn’t ready to declare a state of emergency over monkeypox
California officials are pushing for more vaccine and are acting with “extreme urgency” to slow the spread of the monkeypox virus, but they have not yet decided whether to declare a statewide emergency, the city of San Francisco said on Thursday, the city’s health official said State Friday.
dr California Department of Health director Tomás Aragón said they are focused on providing accurate information to the public and expanding testing. He said they are using the relationships made with local health departments and clinics during the coronavirus pandemic to distribute vaccines quickly.
“We are carefully evaluating whether we need to issue an official declaration of emergency,” he said at a briefing with reporters. Right now, the state is “really mobilizing the tremendous resources and infrastructure that we built for COVID and now using it for monkeypox.”
The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling, and kissing, and sharing bedding, towels, and clothing. So far, men who have sex with men have been the most affected. However, health authorities emphasize that the virus can infect anyone.
The monkeypoxvirus species identified in this outbreak are rarely fatal, and people usually recover within weeks. However, the lesions and blisters caused by the virus are painful and can prevent swallowing or defecating in the throat or anus.
“We just get a very large number of people calling with very real fear and anxiety and people calling with very real pain. Those who have monkeypox and are struggling to access treatment,” said Tyler TerMeer, chief executive officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
On Thursday, San Francisco declared a state of emergency while New York State declared the monkeypox virus an “imminent public health threat,” paving the way for more flexibility and speed. The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global emergency for more than 70 countries over the weekend.
California has reported nearly 800 probable and confirmed cases out of more than 3,000 identified in the US. Only New York has reported more cases.
The problem was a nationwide vaccine shortage. On Friday, the state’s two US senators sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging him to provide his home state with at least 600,000 additional doses of the monkeypox vaccine.
California has distributed more than 25,000 vaccine doses and expects another 72,000, Aragón said.
A spokesman for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said the state has also reached out to the manufacturer directly, with discussions continuing about vaccine supplies, logistics and how California could receive additional doses.
“We’re not even close to where we need to be,” Newsom said in an interview with KTVU-TV last week.
Members of the LGBTQ community have been furious at government’s slow response at all levels and say the world should have been better prepared when it comes to vaccine manufacture and stockpiling. They have expressed frustration at not being able to get the vaccine and fear they will be let down again amid a public health crisis similar to that of HIV and AIDS.
California Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat representing San Francisco, has urged the state to declare an emergency that would offer more flexibility on testing and vaccinations. But he also said Friday that leaders acted with a reasonable sense of urgency.
“At this point, I think we’re all rowing in the same direction, local, state, federal. We just all have to row faster because we have a limited window of opportunity to control this outbreak,” he said.
TerMeer said a state emergency declaration will come in handy when vaccines arrive and resources are needed to vaccinate people quickly. But he said the federal government should have declared one early on.
“As a direct result of the federal government’s slow and inadequate response to this outbreak, there will be unfortunate and lasting consequences for our community,” he said.
Har reported from Marin County, California.