California has become the second US state in three days to declare a state of emergency to tackle the spread of monkeypox.
The state has announced the move as US President Joe Biden prepares to appoint top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as White House coordinators to combat the growing outbreak.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the declaration in his state will help officials coordinate a statewide response, seek more vaccines and lead outreach and education efforts about where people can get treatment and vaccines.
“We will continue to work with the federal government to secure more vaccines, raise awareness to reduce risk and stand with the LGBTQ community fighting stigma,” Newsom said in a statement announcing his declaration Monday.
The monkeypox the virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, which may include hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as through sharing bedding, towels and clothing.
People getting sick so far has mainly been men who have sex with menalthough health officials note that the virus can infect anyone.
“Public health officials are clear: stigma is unacceptable and counterproductive in public health response,” Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California, said in a statement.
“The fact is that monkeypox is primarily spread by skin-to-skin contact and the sharing of objects such as bedding or towels, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak is rarely fatal, and people usually recover within weeks. But the lesions and blisters caused by the virus are painful and can prevent swallowing or defecation in the throat or anus.
The statement in California came after a similar one in the state of New York on Saturday, and in San Francisco on Thursday.
Mr. Newsom’s administration had said as recently as Friday that it was too early for such a declaration.
The proclamation allows emergency medical personnel to administer monkeypox vaccines approved by the federal government.
It is similar to a recent law allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines, Newsom’s administration said.
It said the state’s response is building on steps developed during the coronavirus pandemic to set up vaccination clinics and ensure outreach to vulnerable populations in partnership with local and community-based organizations.
California has received more than 61,000 vaccine doses and has distributed more than 25,000.
“We have no time to waste,” Los Angeles County Executive Kathryn Barger said in a statement. She said the country’s most populous county must use all available resources to speed up the distribution of vaccines and help those who have been infected.
Mr Newsom’s office said Los Angeles County has received a separate allocation of vaccine.
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As of last week, California had expanded its testing capacity to process more than 1,000 tests a week.
Meanwhile, Mr. Biden is set to announce Robert Fenton, who helped lead FEMA’s mass vaccination effort for COVID-19 when the president first took office, as White House coordinator.
Dr Demetre Daskalakis, director of the CDC’s HIV Prevention Division and a national expert on issues affecting the LGBTQ community, previously helped lead New York City’s COVID-19 response.