Gay California Senator Wiener calls for monkeypox state of emergency

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 27, 2022
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California Senator Scott Wiener, second from right, is calling on health officials in the state to declare a monkeypox state of emergency. Photo: Liz Highleyman
California Senator Scott Wiener, second from right, is calling on health officials in the state to declare a monkeypox state of emergency. Photo: Liz Highleyman

With monkeypox on the rise throughout California, and particularly in San Francisco, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is calling upon officials for both polities to declare a state of emergency to help combat the virus. His doing so comes days after global health officials took emergency steps to ebb the tide of cases of the virus.

Monkeypox, which is a member of the orthopoxvirus genus that includes now-eradicated smallpox, is generally regarded as significantly less serious than smallpox. For some, however, it can still be potentially deadly and, for many, an outbreak of the virus can be quite serious and painful. In San Francisco, as of July 26, there have been 222 documented cases. Statewide, there have been 646 confirmed cases, according to the California Department of Public Health.

"Monkeypox is a public health crisis, and we need to treat it as such," said Wiener, in a statement released Wednesday, July 27. "In San Francisco alone, we have 222 cases — one of the highest rates in the United States. Given that spread and that monkeypox is now being detected in our sewage, we know that cases are high and will continue to grow. Monkeypox is painful and isolating, and no one should have to experience it.

"Unfortunately, because our federal government failed to act quickly to acquire the vaccine supplies needed to prevent an outbreak, we are now in a public health emergency that is only going to escalate," he continued. "Given that gay and bi men and trans people are the most impacted, it's sadly becoming clear that we are being left behind once again."

Declaring a state of emergency would allow state and local health officials to utilize a broader range of resources to help in combating the outbreak. As this point, Wiener said, both San Francisco and California don't have enough of the vaccine or the ability to test on the scale needed to effectively meet the challenge.

"We have no time to waste: this is happening now, it's serious, and we need to do everything we can to contain it," Wiener said.

At this point, Wiener has not been in touch with other LGBTQ legislators in the California Legislature about monkeypox, said his spokesperson Catie Stewart, but he has been talking with Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

Requests for comment from San Francisco's gay supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Matt Dorsey were not immediately returned, nor did Colfax respond to the Bay Area Reporter's request for comment.

At a July 21 hearing led by Mandelman, the city's public health agency came under criticism from members of the Board of Supervisors for communications failures about monkeypox and its drop-in vaccine clinic that had left people waiting in line for hours. Due to a lack of vaccine supply, the city had to close the clinic this week.

World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared July 23 that monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern — the global agency's highest level of alarm — as cases continue to rise steeply in the United States and worldwide, as the B.A.R. has reported. Worldwide, there have been more than 16,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox this year in more than 75 countries, according to a report by the United Nations. In the U.S. cases now number 4,639, as of July 27.

Although Wiener was critical of the federal response to the outbreak, on July 23, the White House claimed its response was "robust and comprehensive" in a statement circulated to the media.

Raj Panjabi, coordinator of the White House Pandemic Office, stated the Biden administration had "dramatically" increased the "procurement, distribution, and production of vaccines, as well as expanding access to testing and treatments, and communicating with communities most at risk of contracting the virus."

For more information about monkeypox in San Francisco, go to or

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