New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued an executive order late Friday to declare monkeypox a “disaster emergency,” saying it will strengthen ongoing efforts to limit a recent increase in cases.
“More than one in four monkeypox cases in this country are in New York state, and we need to utilize every tool in our arsenal as we respond,” Hochul wrote in a press release.
“It’s especially important to recognize the ways in which this outbreak is currently having a disproportionate impact on certain at-risk groups,” she added. “That’s why my team and I are working around the clock to secure more vaccines, expand testing capacity and responsibly educate the public on how to stay safe during this outbreak.”
As of July 29, New York state’s orthopoxvirus/monkeypox cases totaled 1,383, according to the New York Department of Health’s website, a designation established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
California, the state with the second-most cases, has reported 799 infections, according to CDC data, followed by 419 in Illinois. The United States has recorded a total of 5,189 cases this year.
Hochul’s move came a day after the commissioner of health in New York state declared monkeypox an “imminent threat to public health.”
“Based on the ongoing spread of this virus, which has increased rapidly and affected primarily communities that identify as men who have sex with men … I’ve declared monkeypox an imminent threat to public health throughout New York state,” Dr. Mary Travis Bassett wrote in a press release on Thursday.
Hochul’s emergency declaration allows more health professionals to administer monkeypox vaccines throughout New York state, the governor’s office said.
“The Executive Order specifically extends the pool of eligible individuals who can administer monkeypox vaccines, including EMS personnel, pharmacists, and midwives; allows physicians and certified nurse practitioners to issue non-patient specific standing orders for vaccines; and requires providers to send vaccine data to the New York State Department of Health,” according to the release.
The governor’s announcement follows an already existing process to secure more vaccines and expand testing capacities, as well as distributing information via a website and a text notification system, the office added.
On Thursday, Hochul said the federal government had secured an additional 110,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine for the state, for a total of 170,000 so far.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency, its highest level of alert, over the monkeypox outbreak.
Monkeypox, a zoonotic infectious disease usually found in parts of Central and West Africa that can also infect humans in rare cases, has been reported in over 75 countries and territories, with over 22,000 infections globally, according to the CDC.
Earlier this month, a major peer-reviewed study of monkeypox infections found that the virus is primarily being transmitted through the sexual activity of gay and bisexual men in the United States and around the world.
The Journal of New England Medicine published the study on July 21, looking at monkeypox infection across 16 countries between April and June, which is around the same period cases began to emerge in countries outside of Africa.
The study reported on 528 infections diagnosed between April 27 and June 24, of which 98 percent were in gay or bisexual men with a median age of 38. Of these cases, 95 percent of the infections were suspected to have been transmitted through sexual activity—41 percent also had HIV.