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    Tuesday, August 16, 2022

    N.Y. lawmakers want state of emergency for monkeypox

    ALBANY, N.Y. — A coalition of Manhattan lawmakers are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to declare a state of emergency as monkeypox infections continue to rise.

    A state and local declaration of emergency would help facilitate disaster response efforts by cutting red tape and speeding up the distribution of testing, treatment and vaccines, the group argued Friday.

    The request comes a day after State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett deemed the virus an “imminent threat to public health” in the Empire State as cases soared past 1,200 in the city.

    “New York is in the middle of another health emergency that shows no signs of abating,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

    The group includes state Sen. Brad Hoylman, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, Assembly members Deborah Glick, Dick Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal, as well as City Councilman Erik Bottcher.

    Bassett’s threat declaration means that local health departments that are engaged in response and prevention activities will be able to access additional state reimbursement.

    A state of emergency declaration would go further and could expedite approval processes for new testing and treatment, as well as procurement and contracting processes necessary to provide testing, treatment, and vaccines to New Yorkers, the lawmakers say.

    Hochul senior adviser Bryan Lesswing said the governor’s office is reviewing the request.

    “Gov. Hochul and her team are responding to the monkeypox outbreak with urgency and aggressive action by securing more than 170,000 vaccines, advocating for New York to receive additional doses based on the disease burden impacting our state, declaring monkeypox an imminent threat to public health, expanding testing capacity, and a robust public information campaign,” Lesswing said in a statement.

    Mayor Eric Adams, meanwhile, said city officials are weighing making a similar determination for the Big Apple.

    “Dr. Vasan, the commissioner in charge of our Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, he’s still making that determination,” Adams said during an unrelated press conference in the South Bronx on Friday. “It would free up and allow me to do certain things that we do the same thing in the city. And he’s going to make that determination.”

    The disease has mostly infected gay men, which has prompted the City Health Department to focus much of its outreach efforts on the LGBTQ community.

    At-risk New Yorkers, however, have been frustrated by numerous problems in the city’s rollout of vaccinations, including glitches on an appointment website and a lack of supply from the federal government.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and President Joe Biden this week helped secure 110,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine for the state, of which 80,000 will go to New York City.

    The doses will be delivered over the next four to six weeks, according to Hochul’s office.

    Adams said he will continue to ask for additional vaccine shipments as infections rise.

    “All of the vaccines that we have and the appointments are out. We’re continuing to send a clear message to Washington and to the state -- 90% of the cases are in New York City,” the mayor said. “We were not receiving our proportionate share, and the White House has attempted to correct that.

    “As we get them in, we’re setting up appointments right away,” he added. “The website is up and operating.”

    The virus, which prior to the current global outbreak primarily occurred in central and west Africa, causes rashes, bumps, and blisters often on hands, genitals or face. Those infected also endure flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and fatigue.

    Monkeypox is spread through close, physical contact and though rarely fatal, symptoms can be extremely painful, and people might endure permanent scarring resulting from the rash.

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