ALBANY – Leaders of New York County Health Departments say their continued efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic will make it difficult for them to mount a robust response to the threat posed by the monkeypox outbreak in the state.
While New York has about 6% of the nation’s population, it has more than 25% of documented monkeypox cases so far in the United States, making it the epicenter of the national outbreak.
14 UPSTATE COUNTIES
As of Friday, the number of documented infections in the state stood at 1,383, the state health department reported.
While the bulk of these were in the downstate region, at least 30 cases have been documented in upstate New York, with 14 counties in the region now recording monkeypox infections. .
But there have been no cases in the North Country, only one in Niagara County, and no infections reported in Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie counties.
“The emergence of monkeypox is a great example of why we need to fund prevention,” said Sarah Ravenhall, director of the New York State Association of County Health Officials. “Local health services are on the front line to curb disease transmission.”
As the number of monkeypox cases continued to rise on Friday, several downstate lawmakers implored Governor Kathy Hochul to declare a state of emergency to address the public health threat.
“This call to action is even more urgent given the resumption of classes next month for New York’s 1.1 million college and university students,” lawmakers said in a statement. Those who signed the statement included: Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Assemblymen Linda Rosenthal and Deborah Glick, and New York City Councilman Erik Bottcher. All are Manhattan Democrats.
Hochul issued a decree late Friday declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak.
Gottfried, chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, told CNHI that New York will benefit from a state of emergency related to monkeypox because it will allow Hochul to issue executive orders that could lead to decisions. such as lifting requirements that could slow test lab approvals.
“It would legally open the door to this stuff,” Gottfried said.
‘LONG TERM INVESTMENT’
The County Health Officials Association had requested that the designation be issued so that local health agencies could be eligible for greater reimbursement for actions in response to the outbreak.
Ravenhall said his group is grateful for the additional $30 million it secured in the state budget for local agencies, but noted that the funding stream will now need to be maintained. “The long-term investment in public health is going to be incredibly important,” Ravenhall said, noting that the pandemic and now the threat of monkeypox has demonstrated how quickly populations of people can be affected by contagion.
According to the state health department, monkeypox is spread through close physical contact between people. While anyone can get monkeypox, “based on the current epidemic, certain populations are more affected by monkeypox than others, including men who have sex with men” , said the Ministry of Health.
State officials anticipate that the federal government will provide New York with an additional 110,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine over the next four to six weeks. A total of 30,000 of them are expected to travel to upstate counties and other areas outside New York, while 110,000 doses will be flown to New York.
“My team and I have been working around the clock to respond to the monkeypox outbreak and keep New Yorkers safe, and we will continue our ongoing efforts to secure more vaccines, expand testing capacity and educate the public. on how to identify symptoms and how to protect yourself. ,” Hochul said in a statement.
Nancy McGraw, president of the Association of County Health Officials and director of public health for Sullivan County, said the supply of monkeypox vaccines isn’t the only challenge for New York agencies trying to respond to the epidemic.
“The persistent and profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant strain on public health personnel and resources at the national and local levels, making our collective response to emerging threats such as monkeypox considerably more difficult,” McGraw said.
With nurses and other healthcare professionals in high demand in the job market, Ravenhall said local health agencies are facing staffing challenges in some counties.
She said her group is urging the US Department of Health and Human Services to issue a statement that would include the orthopoxvirus under the PREP Act, which provides legal protections for COVID vaccinators. Such a move, she said, would “ensure the medical professionals and resources needed by local health departments to provide an effective and efficient response.”