Newsom declares state of emergency over monkeypox outbreak

Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a state of emergency in California over the spread of the monkeypox virus to “enhance the state’s vaccination efforts.”

“California is working urgently at all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and strengthened community partnerships during the pandemic to ensure those most at risk are our priority for vaccines, treatment and awareness,” Newsom said in the statement.

Monkeypox is a rare disease similar to smallpox, although generally milder. It is spreading widely among men who have sex with men as well as transgender and non-binary people, although health officials warn that anyone can contract the virus through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs or bodily fluids or by touching a person’s clothing and bedding. with the virus.

Nearly 800 cases have been confirmed in California, according to the most recent data from the California Department of Public Health as of Thursday. The state reported that 98.3% of those cases were confirmed in men, the majority of whom identify as part of the LGBTQ community.

The proclamation makes it easier for the state to coordinate its response to the outbreak by directing all state agencies to follow guidance from the Office of Emergency Services and the California Department of Public Health. The order also bolsters vaccination efforts by allowing emergency medical service workers to administer vaccines, which remain in short supply.

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and several other state lawmakers on Monday sent a letter to Newsom and legislative leaders calling for an emergency budget appropriation of $38.5 million to support testing, the vaccination, treatment and local sensitization against monkeypox during the first 90 days of the outbreak.

“The monkeypox outbreak is an emergency, and we must use all the tools at our disposal to control it,” Wiener said in a statement after Newsom’s emergency declaration.

Newsom’s office said California has distributed more than 25,000 doses of the vaccine out of a total of 61,000 doses received to date. This total does not include a separate allocation that the federal government directed to Los Angeles County.

The governor’s order said the state is “distributing its limited vaccine supply to local health jurisdictions based on a formula that takes into account current cases of monkeypox and the number of high-risk individuals.”

Those eligible for the vaccine in LA County include anyone who has had direct contact with someone with monkeypox or who has attended a high-exposure event. Also eligible under county guidelines are gay and bisexual men and transgender people who have visited a commercial sex venue or other location where they have had anonymous or multiple-partner sex in the past three weeks, or who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea or early syphilis within the past 12 months or are taking HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis medications.

The governor’s office said more than 30 facilities and providers across the state offer treatment for monkeypox, though access to the prescription antiviral drug tecovirimat is also limited.

“We will continue to work with the federal government to get more vaccines, raise awareness about harm reduction, and support the LGBTQ community in the fight against stigma,” Newsom said.

People infected with the virus initially have fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. Later, they develop a rash, usually starting on the face and then spreading, turning into pus-filled sores before healing.

Monkeypox illnesses usually resolve within two to four weeks, but can lead to severe pain, hospitalization, long-term symptoms, and in rare cases, death.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger urged the county to “reduce all available support to expedite the distribution of vaccines and resources to those at risk of and suffering from this terrible disease” in response to the governor’s order. .

“I will work to make sure we do this quickly and efficiently,” Barger said in a statement. “We do not have time to lose.”

An investigation into California’s first case of monkeypox in an overseas traveler began May 21 and was confirmed May 25.

Under the California Emergency Services Act of 1970, the Governor has broad powers of intervention in the event of a state of emergency. The governor can “make, modify, and rescind” state regulations and suspend state laws and has the authority to redirect state funds to help in an emergency – even funds affected by the California legislature for entirely different purposes.

The California Supreme Court in 2021 upheld an appeals court decision that upheld Newsom’s emergency powers. Two Republican state lawmakers had challenged Newsom’s power after declaring a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing he had no right to issue an executive order requiring ballots ballots are mailed to the state’s 22 million registered voters by Nov. 3. , 2020, election.

The high court ruled that the law was constitutional because it required the governor to end the declared state of emergency as soon as possible and also allowed the legislature to end it by passing a joint resolution.

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