Gov. Newsom declares monkeypox state of emergency – Daily News

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By DON THOMPSON | The Associated Press

California’s governor on Monday declared a state of emergency to speed efforts to combat the monkeypox outbreak, becoming the second state in three days to take the step and bringing swift reaction in Southern California.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the declaration will help the state coordinate a government-wide response, seek more vaccines and lead outreach and education efforts on where people can get treatment and vaccines.

“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,” Newsom said in a statement announcing his declaration.

The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, which can include hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as through the sharing of bedding, towels and clothing. People getting sick so far have mainly been men who have *** with men, though health officials note that the virus can infect anyone.

The type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak is rarely fatal, and people usually recover within weeks. But the lesions and blisters caused by the virus are painful, and they can prevent swallowing or bowel movements if in the throat or ***.

The declaration in California came after a similar one in New York state on Saturday, and in San Francisco on Thursday. Newsom’s administration had said as recently as Friday that it was too soon for such a declaration.

The announcement drew immediate responses in Southern California, where for weeks the virus has been found to be circulating.

“Now that the Governor has declared a statewide emergency, our County needs to draw down all the support available to accelerate the distribution of vaccines and resources to those at risk and suffering from this terrible disease,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement. “I will work to ensure we’re doing so quickly and efficiently. We don’t have any time to waste.”

The county has been slowly  expanding access to monkeypox vaccines throughout July, but the limited supply of doses meant the inoculations have only be available to high-risk residents who are specifically contacted by the Department of Public Health.

By Monday, there were 261 known cases in Los Angeles County, according to the state’s dashboard. That’s up from 120 in mid-July and the highest tally in California, which as of Monday showed a total of 786 cases statewide.

The total number of confirmed and probable monkeypox cases in Riverside County increased on Monday by six since late last week to 34 — with four of that 34 total confirmed as having the disease, a county spokesman said. Long Beach reported 12 confirmed cases.

As of Monday,  Orange County had six and San Bernardino County had two, according to the state.

L.A. County has also confirmed local transmission of the virus, noting that some patients had no known history of recent travel. But public health officials insisted during an online briefing Friday that the risk of infection in the general population remains extremely low.

News of additional cases, however, has prompted some calls for expanded access to the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, which remains in limited supply. The county had already administered its supply of roughly 1,000 doses of the vaccine, which is actually a two-dose regimen.

In the face of limited supplies of vaccine and growing public concern, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors last week agreed to lobby federal health officials to bolster local supplies of monkeypox vaccines and boost funding for testing and administration of the shots.

L.A. County has been slowly expanding eligibility for the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, but supplies remain extremely limited.

In a motion that went before L.A. County’s Board of Supervisors last week, Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn noted that future vaccine supplies remain uncertain.

“With the current supply, it is estimated that only 5%-10% of the population that wants to be vaccinated will be reached,” according to the motion. “Given the vaccine can be administered both pre- and post-exposure and the continued spread of the monkeypox virus throughout Los Angeles County, additional vaccine supplies will be needed to expand vaccine eligibility to both prevent further spread and to provide an effective treatment to those who have been exposed.”

Riverside County health officials, meanwhile, have distributed 116 doses of monkeypox vaccines to DAP Health, Eisenhower Health, Borrego Health and RUHS’ HIV clinic in the Coachella Valley from the county’s limited supply, Arballo told City News Service.

He said that the county had a little more than 1,000 doses of the two-dose-regimen JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, enough for about 500 people, before they were distributed into the Coachella Valley.

Shane Reichardt, a spokeswoman for RUHS, said the county has not received additional vaccine doses since Tuesday.

“We are currently working with our state partners on new shipments but the supply is still very limited,” he said.

Riverside County health officials have distributed 116 doses of monkeypox vaccines to DAP Health, Eisenhower Health, Borrego Health and RUHS’ HIV clinic in the Coachella Valley from the county’s limited supply, Arballo said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health advise that the vaccine be prioritized for high-risk and exposed patients.

Gay, bisexual and other men who have *** with men are at increased risk of contracting the virus, according to the CDC.

Equality California, a large statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, lauded the announcements, given the need for an urgent response

“Equality California applauds the leadership of Governor Newsom to ensure that Californians are protected from the fast growing monkeypox outbreak in our state,”  Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a statement following the governor’s announcement. “While anyone of any *** 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.”

After pressing for Newsom to make such a declaration, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco hailed the governor’s decision.

“The monkeypox outbreak is an emergency, and we need to use every tool we have to control it,” Wiener said.

Newsom’s proclamation allows emergency medical personnel to administer monkeypox vaccines that are approved by the federal government.

That’s similar to a recent law that allows pharmacists to administer vaccines, Newsom’s administration said. It said the state’s response is building on the steps developed during the coronavirus pandemic to set up vaccination clinics and make sure there is outreach to vulnerable populations in cooperation with local and community-based organizations.

Associated Press, City News Service and SCNG staff contributed to this report.

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