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As cases mount, Sacramento County declares public health emergency for monkeypox outbreak

Sacramento Bee logo Sacramento Bee 8/9/2022 Amelia Davidson, The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento County officials declared a state of emergency for monkeypox Tuesday afternoon. Seven new cases were reported in the county Tuesday alone.

The county Board of Supervisors approved two emergency proclamations during their Tuesday meeting that elevated the county’s monkeypox response to emergency status, allowing the county greater access to federal funds and to issue emergency orders should the outbreak worsen.

The emergency proclamations passed in a 4-1 vote, with District 4 Supervisor Sue Frost the lone “no” vote.

“If we were to vote no, it sounds like we would be derelicting our responsibility to be true stewards of public health,” said District 1 Supervisor Phil Serna at the meeting.

Sacramento County recorded 80 monkeypox cases Tuesday, up from 73 Monday. Nationwide, 8,934 people have been infected with monkeypox, with 1,310 cases in California as of Thursday, when data was last updated.

Sacramento County’s emergency declaration follows similar moves on the state and federal level. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Aug. 1, and the Biden administration did so nationally Aug. 4. Some major jurisdictions in California, including San Diego County and the city of San Francisco, have also declared local emergencies.

County officials hope for more funding, infrastructure

The emergency declarations “do not signify a current increase in risk to the residents of Sacramento County,” county health officials wrote Tuesday. Rather, the orders are meant to help the county obtain more aid and respond forcefully to the outbreak.

“The (emergency) proclamations enable the county to be more effective in their response and to be able to access mutual aid and funds that will be available,” said County Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye at the Tuesday meeting.


Video: Cases Of Monkey Pox In Sacramento County Grows To 21 (CBS Sacramento)

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The county has received 4,728 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine from the federal government. Of those, 1,169 were administered by Sacramento County Public Health, 2,905 were distributed to doctors and hospitals in the area and the rest were set aside for future use.

Kasirye said Tuesday the county hopes to receive grant money to scale up vaccination, prevention and treatment efforts. So far, the only providers in the region authorized to provide monkeypox treatment are UC Davis and Kaiser.

Concern over public health messaging

Kasirye said at the meeting that one of the challenges county officials have is spreading public health messaging that does not stigmatize vulnerable communities. Although monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, it is primarily spreading among men who have sex with men.

“We want to balance our messages with trying to get through to that community while not stigmatizing them,” Kasirye said.

Still, Kasirye said, it is important that the public recognize that anyone can contract monkeypox, regardless of age or gender.

Supervisors appeared to be in near agreement with Kasirye and other county health officials that the ongoing outbreak warranted further public health measures. But Frost expressed skepticism at the severity of the outbreak, echoing concerns visible in publicly-submitted comments that the county was overreacting.

Frost has been criticized by her fellow supervisors for expressing similar skepticism about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine.

“Monkeypox cases are low; people rarely die from monkeypox,” Frost said at the meeting. “I do believe in medical freedom and I urge people to do their own research.”

According to Kasirye, of Sacramento County’s 80 monkeypox cases, 24 have visited the emergency room and three have been hospitalized. Nobody in the county has died of monkeypox.

The Bee’s Michael McGough contributed to this story

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Visit sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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