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California, Illinois declare states of emergency over monkeypox

Tents for a monkeypox vaccination clinic at the Balboa Sports Center in Los Angeles on July 27. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
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The governors of California and Illinois on Monday declared states of emergency in an effort to bolster their responses to the monkeypox outbreak.

California, the most populous state in the United States, had recorded 827 monkeypox cases as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — second to New York, which had recorded 1,390 cases as of Monday and last week declared a public health emergency. Illinois had recorded 520 cases. The nationwide tally is more than 5,800.

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The declaration by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) allows emergency medical services workers to administer the monkeypox vaccine, as pharmacists had also recently been permitted to do, Newsom said in a statement. “It is critical to maximize the number of personnel who can administer vaccines within this outreach effort,” he wrote in the emergency declaration. “Expanding the pool of eligible vaccinators will substantially aid current efforts and support anticipated further vaccination efforts upon receipt of additional doses from the federal government.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said in a statement that the effort to prevent the spread of the virus “requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources.” He said he was declaring a state of emergency “to expand the resources and coordination efforts of state agencies in responding to, treating, and preventing the spread” of monkeypox.

With a “limited supply” of vaccines from the federal government, California is distributing vaccines to local health authorities “based on a formula that considers [the area’s] current monkeypox cases and number of high-risk individuals,” according to the declaration. California has received more than 61,000 doses of the vaccine, according to Newsom’s office.

“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. Outbreaks have so far been overwhelmingly concentrated in men who have sex with men, though anyone can contract the virus. Advocates have urged officials to avoid repeating the mistakes of the AIDS crisis, when the virus’s devastating effects on the gay community were minimized.

There are increasing concerns about the federal supply of monkeypox vaccines. The United States recently received hundreds of thousands of additional doses, but is not expected to receive another shipment until October at the earliest — with cases expected to continue multiplying until then amid a dwindling supply of shots.

‘Not enough shots’: U.S. faces ‘vaccine cliff’ on monkeypox

In a signal that the Biden administration is ramping up its response to the outbreak, the White House is expected to name Robert J. Fenton Jr., an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the national monkeypox coordinator, along with a deputy coordinator, Demetre Daskalakis of the CDC, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Most of California’s monkeypox cases are concentrated in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last week, San Francisco declared a public health emergency over the outbreak. Mayor London Breed (D) said Thursday that monkeypox cases there had doubled to 261 in just a week. As of Monday, there were 310 cases reported in the city.

The Biden administration has weighed whether to declare the outbreak a public health emergency, with the World Health Organization last month labeling the rising cases worldwide a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” — its highest level of alert.

“In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement at the time.

Monkeypox mainly spreads through direct contact with infectious rashes, scabs or bodily fluids. It can also be transmitted from respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex — though monkeypox is not considered a traditional sexually transmitted disease like syphilis or gonorrhea.

Dan Diamond contributed to this report.

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