NEW YORK (WABC) -- The New York City Health Department declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency on Saturday.
This comes after Governor Kathy Hochul declared a 'disaster emergency' in the State of New York in response to the monkeypox outbreak.
"After reviewing the latest data on the monkeypox outbreak in New York State, I am declaring a State Disaster Emergency to strengthen our aggressive ongoing efforts to confront this outbreak," Governor Hochul said. "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," said Hochul.
New York's health commissioner has declared the monkeypox outbreak is an "imminent threat," and she issued an urgent message to the gay community and said health officials need to "sound the alarm" on NY1 Friday.
"The vast majority of cases are spreading through sexual contact, and the vast majority of cases (are) among men who have sex with men," Dr. Mary Bassett said. "This is the community that we both want to protect from stigma and also sound the alarm."
Two people have died in Spain and Brazil, the first reported deaths from this outbreak outside of Africa.
New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, is getting 80,000 doses of the vaccine -- but some say it's not enough.
A joint statement from state Senator Brad Hoylman; U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler; state Assembly members Deborah Glick, Dick Gottfried, Linda Rosenthal; and City Council Member Erik Bottcher called for Mayor Eric Adams to declare a state of emergency.
"New York is in the middle of another health emergency that shows no signs of abating," the statement read. "Since the first monkeypox case was confirmed on May 18, the number of verified monkeypox cases in New York has risen to 1,341, more than 25% of all cases nationally, and continues to grow. New York State and New York City should each act now."
The statement went on to say the declaration of an "Imminent Threat to Public Health" was important and necessary, but that it is not sufficient in recognizing and combating the seriousness of the virus.
"A state and local declaration of emergency will help facilitate disaster response efforts by cutting the red tape standing in the way of effective and speedy distribution of testing, treatment, and vaccines," the statement said. "For example, the declaration 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 officials said the 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.
As of Friday, 1,289 people have tested positive for orthopoxvirus in New York City, meaning they are presumed cases of monkeypox.
NYC Monkeypox Case Numbers:
Adams said he is awaiting city Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan's decision on whether to declare a monkeypox state of emergency.
Dr. Vasan tells Eyewitness News that he is still considering declaring a state of emergency, while calling on the federal government to declare a public health emergency.
He said he commends the state heath commissioner for the "imminent threat" declaration.
"We still have a chance to slow this thing down, if we can get shots in arms as soon as possible," he said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sent President Joe Biden a letter asking for more vaccines, citing the state's proximity to New York and lessons learned during coronavirus about viruses not respecting state borders.
"We do not believe that New Jersey has received an equitable percentage of available vaccine through this allocation strategy," Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli wrote in their letter. "I would like to request that HHS and the CDC reconsider the allocation strategy and increase New Jersey's vaccine allocation to account for our population size and considerations raised in this letter."
Meantime, Connecticut announced it will have 15 primary vaccination sites starting Monday, distributing 800 doses.
Applicants have to identifies as a gay or bisexual man with possible exposure within the past 14 days.
Connecticut has identified 28 cases, all in men.
The U.S. has more than 4,600 total cases of monkeypox, about a third of them in New York state.
The Biden administration is also considering declaring monkeypox a public health emergency, following in the steps of the World Health Organization.
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