California and Illinois declared health emergencies Monday over the ongoing spread of monkeypox, the latest jurisdictions to marshal new resources to try and contain the disease.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the declaration would help officials coordinate a “whole-of-government response to monkeypox, seek additional vaccines and lead outreach and education efforts on accessing vaccines and treatment.”
“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,” said 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.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) did the same Monday, saying the state of emergency would allow officials to “expand the resources and coordination efforts of state agencies in responding to, treating, and preventing the spread.”
“We have seen this virus disproportionately impact the LGBTQ+ community in its initial spread,” Pritzker said in a statement. “In Illinois, we will ensure our LGBTQ+ community has the resources they need to stay safe while ensuring members are not stigmatized as they access critical health care.”
The states are the latest to declare monkeypox a health emergency. New York State did so last week, saying the disease represented an imminent threat to public health. And San Francisco Mayor London Breed did the same for the city, saying residents needed more support from the federal government to protect those at risk. New York City followed suit this weekend.
There are growing calls for the Biden administration to declare monkeypox a public health emergency, but officials have so far declined to do so. The New York Times reports federal health officials say, unlike the initial spread of COVID-19, monkeypox is a known virus with tests, vaccines and treatments already available.
The Food and Drug Administration has cleared an extra 800,000 doses of vaccines to distribute around the country, greatly expanding the supply for vulnerable communities. But there is fear even those shipments won’t meet high demand.
The World Health Organization has already declared the virus a global health emergency, noting the outbreak has already spread to more than 70 countries.
More than 5,800 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the U.S. since the outbreak began in May, in almost every state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California and New York were initially epicenters of new cases, but infections have grown into the hundreds in many places, including Illinois, Texas, Florida and Georgia. Official figures are almost certainly undercounts, according to public health experts.
Monkeypox spreads primarily through close physical contact. Most cases so far have been among men who have sex with men, but public health officials have stressed anyone can be infected.
No deaths have been reported so far in the U.S., but some patients have reported severe pain to due the rash caused by the virus.