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New York Gov. Hochul declares state disaster emergency over monkeypox

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state disaster emergency Friday night over the continued spread of monkeypox. The announcement was followed Saturday by a public health emergency declaration in New York City.

Hochul said the emergency declaration would lead to swifter response and better vaccination distribution. It came a day after the New York State Commissioner of Health declared monkeypox an “imminent threat to public health.”

“I am declaring a State Disaster Emergency to strengthen our ongoing efforts to confront the monkeypox outbreak,” Hochul tweeted Friday.

Hochul indicated the state is an emerging center for the virus, which manifests in symptoms of rashes and lesions across the body, extremities and genitals.

New York has recorded the most cases of the virus nationwide —  1,345 — followed by California with 799, according to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention data last updated Friday.

“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.

The emergency, enacted through executive order, allows EMS personnel, pharmacists, midwives, physicians and certified nurse practitioners to administer vaccinations, the governor’s office said in a statement.

The state was already in the process of securing more vaccines, expanding testing, and distributing information via a website and a text notification system, the governor’s office said.

On Saturday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner, declared a public health emergency in the city.

The declaration allows the city health department to issue emergency commissioner’s orders and amends health code provisions “to provide for measures to help slow the spread,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

“New York City is currently the epicenter of the outbreak, and we estimate that approximately 150,000 New Yorkers may currently be at risk for monkeypox exposure,” the statement said. “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.”

On Thursday, Hochul said a new federal government allotment would mean 110,000 additional doses of the monkeypox vaccine for the state, for a total of 170,000 so far.

The governor emphasized the importance of getting vaccines to neighborhoods and communities affected by rapid spread.

“It’s especially important to recognize the ways in which this outbreak is currently having a disproportionate impact on certain at-risk groups,” she said in the late-Friday statement.

The virus, spread through physical contact, can develop flu-like symptoms, and its initial impacts can last as long as four weeks.

Because men who have sex with men are in the virus’ highest- risk cohort, the World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended people in that group limit their number of sexual partners as a precaution.

Monkeypox cases have been reported this year in 71 countries where it was previously unknown or unreported, according to the CDC.

The U.S. has recorded 5,189 cases this year, according to CDC data as of Friday.

Oh Thursday the city of San Francisco declared its own health emergency over the virus.

Joe Studley contributed.

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