Newsom declares monkeypox emergency in CA

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Monday August 1, 2022
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Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a state of emergency for the monkeypox outbreak. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office<br>
Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a state of emergency for the monkeypox outbreak. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office

Three days after California public health officials declined to issue a state of emergency for the monkeypox outbreak, Governor Gavin Newsom did so late Monday afternoon.

In a statement, Newsom said he was making the declaration to bolster the state's vaccination efforts. The proclamation supports the work underway by the California Department of Public Health and others in the administration to coordinate a whole-of-government response to monkeypox, seek additional vaccines, and lead outreach and education efforts on accessing vaccines and treatment, Newsom's release stated.

"California is working urgently across all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and community partnerships strengthened during the pandemic to ensure that those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach," stated Newsom. "We'll continue to work with the federal government to secure more vaccines, raise awareness about reducing risk, and stand with the LGBTQ community fighting stigmatization."

San Francisco's public health department declared a public health state of emergency July 28 because of the city's rapidly growing monkeypox outbreak. New York state also did so, and over the weekend New York City followed suit.

Most of the Golden State's monkeypox cases, and the vast majority in San Francisco, have occurred among men who have sex with men.

Last week, Dr. Tomás Aragón, director and state public health officer of the California Department of Public Health, declined to declare a statewide emergency during a teleconference with reporters, as the Bay Area Reporter reported.

To expand vaccination efforts, Newsom's proclamation enables Emergency Medical Services personnel to administer monkeypox vaccines that are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, similar to the statutory authorization recently enacted for pharmacists to administer vaccines. The state's response to monkeypox builds on the infrastructure developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to deploy vaccine clinics and ensure inclusive and targeted outreach in partnership with local and community-based organizations, the release stated.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) hailed the emergency declaration from the state. He had called on California and San Francisco to do so last week.

"The monkeypox outbreak is an emergency, and we need to use every tool we have to control it," Wiener stated in a release. "I'm deeply grateful to Governor Newsom for recognizing the peril we face, and thus declaring a state of emergency. This declaration will help expand vaccination, testing, and other critical strategies around the outbreak. I look forward to working with the governor and his administration to combat this dangerous health situation."

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, also praised Newsom's declaration.

"Equality California applauds the leadership of Governor Newsom to ensure that Californians are protected from the fast growing monkeypox outbreak in our state," stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang. "While anyone of any sexual orientation can get monkeypox, the fact is that, monkeypox continues to disproportionately affect gay, bisexual and queer men here in California and across the country.

"Equality California is committed to continue working with government officials, public health leaders and other LGBTQ+ organizations to increase awareness and education while fighting stigmas," he added.

Vaccines have been in short supply, leading to long lines at places such as Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. It reopened Monday after receiving more doses of the vaccine and plans to reopen Tuesday to distribute doses as supplies last.

Earlier Monday, Wiener tweeted that he and several of his legislative colleagues put in an emergency funding request to combat the outbreak.

"Today we added detail to our request for an emergency state budget appropriation to help counties respond to the monkeypox outbreak: $38.5M for expanded testing, vaccination, treatment & outreach," he tweeted.

Newsom stated that last month, California public health leaders urged federal partners to make more vaccine doses available to the state as quickly as possible so that the state can expand eligibility to both confirmed and probable exposures, as well as to individuals who are at high-risk of contracting the virus.

"To date, the state has distributed more than 25,000 vaccine doses and will make additional allocations in the coming days and weeks," the release stated. "Los Angeles County has received a separate allocation of vaccine. In all, the state has received more than 61,000 doses. The state is also supporting overall vaccination efforts in collaboration with locals, including helping provide staffing and mobile clinics. The state allocates doses to local health departments based on a number of factors, including the number of reported monkeypox cases in an area and estimate of at-risk populations."

The state has also expanded testing capacity to more than 1,000 tests per week, the release stated. Treatment options have also been expanded. Access to the antiviral prescription drug tecovirimat (TPOXX) used to treat monkeypox is limited, the release stated, but the treatment can now be administered at more than 30 facilities and providers across the state.

The state continues outreach and education efforts to inform Californians about monkeypox and ways to limit its spread. The state has hosted multiple webinars for local health departments, community-based organizations, and other health care providers and has attended various town halls and community meetings to speak with and hear from the public and local leaders, according to the release. CDPH is also scheduling listening sessions with the LGBTQ community. CDPH is currently running paid ad campaigns on various digital media platforms to promote awareness and engage communities at higher risk of contracting monkeypox.

A copy of the emergency declaration is here.

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