San Francisco officials announced a state of emergency on Thursday in response to a growing number of monkeypox cases in the city and a nationwide shortage of vaccines.
The declaration will allow local authorities to mobilize more resources and personnel to deal with the epidemic and accelerate emergency planning. The city has had 261 cases so far, out of about 4,600 in the United States, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
“San Francisco is the epicenter of the country. Thirty percent of all cases in California are in San Francisco,” said San Francisco health officer Susan Philip. In a crisis that has so far disproportionately affected men who have sex with men, she added: “I issue this statement to reaffirm our commitment to the well-being of these communities and to enable us to act more quickly to obtain and distribute the resources needed to help those who are disproportionately affected.
Also on Thursday, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T Bassett said monkeypox was an imminent threat to public health. More than a quarter of the cases in the United States – 1,341 – are in New York, mainly concentrated in New York.
Last week, San Francisco leaders and LGBTQ+ advocates demonstrated outside the regional office of the US Department of Health and Human Services against what they saw as a slow response to the monkeypox outbreak.
“San Francisco was at the forefront of public health responses to HIV and Covid-19, and we will be at the forefront when it comes to monkeypox,” said State Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco representative, in a statement. “We cannot and will not leave the LGTBQ+ community dry.”
No emergency shutdowns or restrictions have been planned, as monkeypox is mainly spread through very close, skin-to-skin contact. But local health organizations in San Francisco have advocated for easier and broader access to testing and more vaccine doses. Those calls are being echoed by leaders in other major cities, where epidemiologists are warning that initial delays in rolling out testing mean the actual number of cases most likely exceeds the number of confirmed cases.
“In the face of a frustratingly slow federal response, it is all the more important that we are able to mobilize all available local resources to get vaccines into guns as quickly and fairly as possible,” the supervisor said. of San Francisco, Rafael Mandelman.
So far, San Francisco has received 8,200 doses of Jynneos, the best monkeypox vaccine. But authorities initially requested 35,000 doses to cover the most vulnerable residents.
Residents had to wait in long lines for rare doses. “We should have been able to get this outbreak under control quickly,” Wiener told the Guardian last week. “And instead it’s like Mad Max Thunderdome getting vaccinated.”
Health workers also said more local resources were needed to reach particularly vulnerable residents, including homeless populations.