SACRAMENTO — California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Monday to address a monkeypox outbreak, making the state the third state in four days to improve its public health response to the rapidly spreading disease.
The statement followed similar actions by New York on Friday and Illinois on Monday, and by the city of San Francisco on Thursday. New York Mayor Eric Adams also declared the local emergency on Monday.
“California is urgently working at 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 those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach. Mr Newsom said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with the federal government to obtain more vaccines, raise awareness about reducing risks and assist the LGBTQ community in the fight against stigma,” he added.
The measures, which help streamline and coordinate the response to monkeypox between different levels of government, come amid a rise in infections and mounting complaints about the public health response.
What you need to know about the Monkeypox virus?
What is monkey pox? Monkeypox is a virus similar to smallpox, but the symptoms are less severe. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research. The virus was mainly found in parts of Central and West Africa, but in recent weeks has spread to dozens of countries and infected tens of thousands of people, mostly men who have sex with men. On July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency.
Nearly 6,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported nationally as of May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with nearly half in California, Illinois and New York. The World Health Organization has already declared the virus a global health emergency.
No deaths have been reported in the United States to date and monkeypox is rarely fatal, but the rash caused by the virus has caused severe pain in some patients. The virus mainly spreads through prolonged physical contact, but it can also be transmitted through shared bedding and clothing, health officials say.
Men who have sex with men have made up for about 99 percent of confirmed cases so far. Public health officials emphasize that the virus can spread to anyone who has prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a person who has a rash.
The number of cases in the US is among the highest in the world and health officials say the figure is almost certainly an underestimate.
Federal health officials say they have not yet declared a national-level health emergency, in part because monkeypox is a known disease for which tests, vaccines and treatments are available.
But as the virus has spread and scientists have gathered research, the emerging picture is somewhat more complicated than in previous outbreaks, and pressure has increased for more aggressive measures.
Last week, President Biden’s Secretary of Health urged states and municipalities to take more initiative, noting that most of the power over public health in the United States is concentrated at the local level.
“We have no control over public health in the 50 states, in the territories and in the tribal jurisdictions,” Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, said in response to a reporter’s question about whether the virus can be eliminated. “We rely on our partnership to work with them. They have to work with us.”
California’s emergency declaration allows emergency medical personnel to administer federally approved monkeypox vaccines.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued an emergency statement Friday, saying the move would pressure federal health officials to send additional monkeypox vaccines to the state. On Monday, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker followed suit, calling monkeypox “a rare but potentially serious disease that requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources.”
Mr. Pritzker added that the effort “would ensure that our LGBTQ+ community has the resources they need to stay safe, while ensuring members are not stigmatized for accessing critical health care.”