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California, Illinois declare monkeypox health emergencies

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday declared monkeypox a public health emergency. File Photo by Eric Thayer/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/c5dcbb070ee054f2a952d0d8ef3802fc/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday declared monkeypox a public health emergency. File Photo by Eric Thayer/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Officials in California and Illinois have declared public health emergencies over spread of the monkeypox virus in their states.

With the declarations made separately Monday, the states add their names to a short but now growing list of U.S. governments that includes the state of New York, New York City and San Francisco seeking to remove red tape and access funds to fight the outbreak of the disease.

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In an effort to advance the state's inoculation drive, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said his declaration enables Emergency Medical Services personnel to administer doses of the FDA-approved monkeypox vaccine.

"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," he said in a statement.

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"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."

With 827 confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. Monday, California is the state with the highest number of infections, second only to New York with 1,390. Illinois as the third highest number at 520.

The virus was first diagnosed in the country mid-May. between then and Monday, the CDC has tallied 5,811 infections.

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Last month, California health officials told the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it needs between 600,000 and 800,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine in order to mitigate the virus' spread.

To date, it has received nearly 38,000 doses, according to stats from the Department of Health and Human Services. Of those doses, Newsom said 25,000 have already been distributed. Additional allocations of vaccines will be announced soon, he said.

Los Angeles has separately received its own nearly 24,000 doses.

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State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat in San Francisco, had called on Newsom late last week to declare monkeypox a statewide public health emergency.

On Monday, he issued a statement expressing his gratitude to Newsom "for recognizing the peril we face."

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"The monkeypox outbreak is an emergency & we need to use every tool we have to control it," he said. "This will help expand vaccination, testing & other critical health strategies."

In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker declared a public health emergency to mobilize all available pubic health resources in the state's fight.

It authorizes the state's department of health to use resources to expand vaccine and testing capacities as well as aid in facilitating the logistics and transportation of vaccines across the state to reach those most at risk, his office said.

"These measures will allow the state to deploy all our resources in fighting this disease and will open efficient lines of communication and cooperation across state lines, an essential step in tracking monkeypox and improving tools and processes to prevent and address it," Dr. Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Public, said in a statement.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Illinois has received nearly 7,500 vaccine doses while Chicago has received an additional 20,849.

The announcements come as calls mount upon the Biden administration to declare monkeypox a nationwide public health emergency.

In a letter dated Friday and sent by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the chair of the House oversight committee said declaring monkeypox a public health emergency is a "crucial next step" in the Biden administration's fight against the virus.

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"The federal government must take every step possible to mitigate the threat monkeypox poses to the health of people in the United states before it is too late," she wrote.

Since the outbreak began, the Biden administration has taken several steps to mitigate its spread.

Late last month, Becerra announced that 786,000 additional vaccines will soon be distributed to states amid short supply of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine.

The Biden administration has also ordered more than 7 million doses of the vaccines, though they are to be delivered in batches throughout the year and into mid-2023.

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