Newsom signs budget bill that includes MPX funding

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday September 8, 2022
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Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a state budget bill that includes $45 million for MPX efforts. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office
Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a state budget bill that includes $45 million for MPX efforts. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office

After the California Senate and Assembly last week each approved a $41 million emergency budget appropriation for the state's public health response to the monkeypox outbreak, the measure, which also includes funding for other issues, was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Gavin Newsom. In another positive development, San Francisco recorded no new infections for three days running this week.

Pulled together through the efforts of lesbian Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles), with the help of gay Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), and legislative budget chairs Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), the MPX package was added last week to the Budget Act of 2022, or Assembly Bill 179, as Newsom indicated in his release. The funding is much needed, as the state continues its efforts to wrangle the MPX virus into submission.

Local health jurisdictions will receive $15,750,000 with $1.5 million allocated specifically to community-based organizations for vaccine clinic administration. The bulk, $25,679,000, is destined for state-level assistance for the California Department of Public Health.

In Southern California, Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner praised the governor's action in a news release.

"Community health clinics on the front lines of responding to monkeypox have desperately needed support from local, state, and federal governments," stated Hollendoner, former CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "Expanding vaccine, testing, outreach, and treatment is the much-needed relief to ensure our community's health.

"This critical public health response from the Governor's office ensures that our community is prioritized. The monkeypox crisis has disproportionately affected the LGBTQ community and we are deeply grateful for increased funding to help bolster our fight," he added. "Our health care workers have been working diligently to distribute as many vaccines as we can to our clients, and we hope to benefit from this funding so that we may continue these efforts."

Wiener did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cases stabilizing

Both in California and the United States, MPX infection rates have been declining, but the race to get vaccinations in the arms of the population most affected by the outbreak, overwhelmingly men who have sex with men, has been an ongoing battle in the face of a shortage of available Jynneos vaccine.

In San Francisco, there were 758 confirmed cases as of September 5. The Bay Area as a whole had 1,336 confirmed cumulative cases as of September 8, with Alameda County having the second highest number of cases in the region at 203. Santa Clara County comes in at 146 cases. Napa County still has the smallest caseload, with only six confirmed cases.

However, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the city recorded no new infections September 4, 5, and 6. That, according to Dr. Stephanie Cohen, medical director of San Francisco City Clinic and the section director for HIV and STD prevention in the SFDPH's Disease Prevention and Control Branch, is probably the result of a couple of factors, including the fact those dates follow right on the heels of a holiday weekend.

"The past few days will end up with a few new infections," she said, "but the trends are going in the right direction."

More likely, she said, it's a combination of the highly successful vaccine roll out — despite challenges in getting the vaccine to the public — and that "we've managed to vaccinate a large number of people, and the community is proactive about taking care of their own health," she said.

State health officials reported Thursday that California has now reported 4,140 probable and confirmed MPX cases, with cases reported in 40 local health jurisdictions. There have now been 140 hospitalizations in California due to the MPX virus and no reported deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The agency also announced that California has received 144,671 vials of MPX vaccine, including 57,322 delivered directly to Los Angeles County from the federal government. Local public health departments have now received 139,324 vials of vaccine.

Wednesday the Biden administration announced it is sending vaccines to upcoming LGBTQ events around the country, including the upcoming Folsom Street Fair and the Castro Street Fair in San Francisco. A total of 10,000 doses are going to California, while 820 doses will be made available for the weekend of Boise Pride.

"As we announced a couple of weeks back, we have ample supply to vaccinate the highest-risk individuals against monkeypox," Bob Fenton, the White House's MPX response coordinator, told journalists during a media briefing. "Nearly all jurisdictions have moved toward the intradermal vaccine approach, which means that jurisdictions have effectively transitioned toward an approach that has gotten not only more shots into arms but also without sacrificing the safety and effectiveness of the Jynneos vaccine. In fact, over 70% of all vaccines being administered in the United States today are given intradermally."

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, a gay man who is deputy coordinator for the national MPX response, hailed the latest figures pointing to an ebbing in cases nationwide of the virus.

"So, as you can see, the week-over-week growth rates of the virus, meaning how quickly the virus is spreading, is trending downward in some of the areas involved earliest in the outbreak," said Daskalakis. "Places like New York, California, Texas, and Illinois are all seeing significant declines in growth rates over the last month."

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