New York City officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Saturday, a move that could free up additional resources aimed at combating the spread of the disease.
In a joint statement, Mayor Eric Adams and Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan described New York City as the “epicenter” of the nation’s monkeypox outbreak, warning that as many as 150,000 city residents may be at risk of exposure.
“Over the past few weeks, we have moved as quickly as possible to expand outreach and access to vaccines and treatment to keep people safe,” their statement read. “This outbreak must be met with urgency, action, and resources, both nationally and globally, and this declaration of a public health emergency reflects the seriousness of the moment.”
The move came one day after Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a state disaster emergency. That executive order will enable additional health care workers, including EMTs and midwives, to administer the vaccine, while improving the state’s ability to track positive cases.
New York City has seen a more than threefold increase in monkeypox cases over the last two weeks, with nearly 1,300 positive cases reported as of Friday. Experts believe there are likely many other cases that have not been diagnosed due to a lack of testing.
While testing capacity has expanded in recent weeks, local officials have faced scrutiny over their response – including a decision to suspend service at half of New York City’s sexual health clinics.
Although monkeypox has not been determined to be sexually transmitted, a majority of positive tests have come among adult men who identify as LGBTQ, according to the city’s tracker.
Officials have also called on the federal government to ramp up its distribution of the monkeypox vaccine, which remains in short supply.
Last week, Hochul announced that an additional 80,000 vaccines would be coming to New York City, to be administered over the coming weeks.