The monkeypox outbreak is officially a disaster in the state of New York. The question is when will this new New York state of mind become other states’ states of mind. Yesterday, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) issued an Executive Order declaring the monkeypox outbreak a disaster in the state of New York and tweeted out the following:
This was six days after the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the PHEIC out of the ongoing monkeypox outbreak on July 23 with PHEIC standing for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. It was also one day after the New York State Commissioner of Health had declared it an Imminent Threat to Public Health on July 28. And just like that, imminent has become clear and present.
This was by no means the first emergency disaster that’s been declared in the state of New York in recent years. There’s also been something called the Covid-19 pandemic that prompted such a declaration back in 2020 and has led renewals of such declarations since then through this year. If you still don’t know what Covid-19 is, it’s that thing that many people around you may be trying to tell you is “over” when it’s not actually over.
And now “what is the monkeypox virus” has joined “what is the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the proper responses to “Things that have not been well-controlled in the U.S.” on Jeopardy! As of July 29, the U.S. has had a total of 5,169 confirmed monkeypox cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Confirmed cases have appeared in all but three states (Montana, Vermont, Wyoming) in the U.S. The worst hit state, though, has been the Empire State with 1,345 cases, per the CDC, and 1,383, per the Executive Order, as of Friday. In fact, the Executive Order state that “New York is now experiencing one of the highest rates of transmission in the country.” So it’s not surprising that the state is done monkeypoxing around and declared the emergency.
This disaster emergency declaration will apply for the entire State of New York through August 28. Such a declaration typically has two general aims. The first is to raise awareness about the problem. Now, chances are you’ve already heard of the monkeypox outbreak, unless you’ve been doing nothing but binge-watching Squid Game on Netflix over the past few months. And, yes, the monkeypox virus is not the same as the SARS-CoV-2. It won’t require the same level of precautions such as mass face mask wearing that public health authorities have tried to implement for the Covid-19 pandemic with an emphasis on the word “tried.”
The trouble, though, is that many people still seem to be proceeding as if things were a total green light, not taking enough actions and precautions against the monkeypox virus that public health experts have been urging. In fact, there’s been a lot of, surprise, surprise, misinformation circulating about the monkeypox virus such as claims that it is simply a sexually transmitted infection when it can be spread by any type of prolonged close contact. While the disaster declaration doesn’t mean that you should start flapping your arms and running around in circles in a panic while yelling, “disaster, disaster,” and hoarding toilet paper, it does mean that you should be aware of the precautions needed. This includes immediately isolating anyone who may have any monkeypox symptoms and getting that person real and proper medical care. It also means avoiding close contact with anyone who may be infected or anything that an infected person may have touched and getting vaccinated against monkeypox if you are more likely to get exposed to the virus. Remember, unless you are a ficus plant posing as a human, you can catch the monkeypox virus if exposed to it.
The second general aim of the disaster declaration is to broaden the authority of various state agencies and their personnel to marshal resources to respond to the outbreak. Don’t misinterpret this as the establishment of some kind of martial law or perhaps “Marshall Law,” in the words of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia). It’s not some sign that the so-called Deep State wants your toilet paper either. Instead, the declaration does some practical things like expand the ability of various healthcare personality to administer vaccinations against monkeypox when deemed necessary under certain conditions.
New York may have been the first U.S. state to declare the monkeypox outbreak a disaster emergency. But it may not end up to be the only one to do so. The state of California has had the second most confirmed monkeypox cases with 799 and is reportedly considering a similar declaration. Illinois has been in third with 419, followed by Florida with 373. The monkeypox virus has been spreading faster and further than it has since it was first identified in 1958. The Empire State of Mind may be that this is a disaster. But while Alicia Keys and Jay-Z may have sung, “There’s nothin’ you can’t do,” New York will need other states and the federal government to step up to help control the outbreak as well. After all, the monkeypox virus doesn’t really discriminate and doesn’t respect state boundaries when it comes to infecting people.
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