The city of San Francisco declared a state of emergency Thursday in response to an outbreak of monkeypox, an emerging viral disease primarily affecting gay men.
Announced by Mayor London Breed and the city’s Department of Public Heath, the declaration empowers the local government to take more immediate and sweeping action to fight the spread.
Less infectious and lethal than Covid-19 and considered a milder version of smallpox, monkeypox is generally spread through sexual or intimate contact, especially among gay and bisexual men, with symptoms including a rash and fever, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
The Biden administration launched a national monkeypox vaccine strategy last month to deploy vaccines to the most affected areas around the country. As of June 28, the Department of Health and Human Services had received requests for vaccines from 32 states and jurisdictions, to which 9,000 doses of vaccine and 300 courses of antiviral smallpox treatments were sent.
Breed made a request for federal vaccine supply support on behalf of her city last week, she said in a Thursday press conference, asking for 70,000 doses of the shot to address the growing number of cases in her jurisdiction, which totaled 281 as of Thursday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times noted. Some vaccine sites have had to shut down due to lack of resources, Breed added.
“We know the challenges of what happens in San Francisco when we put public health on the back burner,” Breed said. “We’ve seen this happen before in history during the AIDS crisis, when San Francisco was virtually left on its own to fend for itself to address what has became a real pandemic in this country.”
Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, claimed there’s been homophobic discrimination and hysteria that’s come with the proliferation of monkeypox in recent months.
“I came of age as a gay man in 1987, when I was 17 years old, and it was at one of the worst points of the AIDS crisis,” Wiener said at the news conference. “This is like deja vu that, once again, gay men are getting attacked and demonized and blamed as we get sick.”
Wiener has received backlash this week over his “gender-affirming healthcare” bill that critics claim would endanger children by facilitating out-of-state tourism for youth gender-transition treatments.
The rise of the virus seems to correspond with homosexual activity. For instance, leaps in monkeypox case numbers since late June in Los Angeles and San Francisco have tracked closely with Pride celebrations, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Of the 799 monkeypox cases in California, 30 percent are concentrated in San Francisco, Dr. Susan Philip, the city’s public health officer, told the publication. Last week, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, requested from the CDC 600,000 more monkeypox vaccines for the state.