San Francisco declares public health emergency over monkeypox

San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared monkeypox a local public health emergency.

Breed made the first announcement on Twitter where she stated that the declaration will allow the city "to prepare and dedicate resources to prevent the spread." It goes into effect on August 1.

San Francisco reported its first official monkeypox case on June 3, and the city now has more cases than most states and is an epicenter for the virus, Breed said.

As of Thursday, San Francisco has 281 probable and confirmed monkeypox cases. This makes up 33% of cases statewide. Breed said data shows that San Francisco has been hit the hardest and health officials don’t want to wait another day to get people the testing, vaccines and treatment they need.

Breed also noted the national monkeypox vaccine shortage, stating that San Francisco has received less than ⅓ of the city's request for 35,000 vaccines. The Department of Public Health is distributing limited vaccines to those most at-risk, however, and raising awareness about the disease.

This week, the city expects to receive 4,220 monkeypox vaccine doses, enabling Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital to reopen a vaccination clinic on August 1 that closed July 13 and again this week when supplies ran out.

The mayor detailed further in a Medium post what the local emergency means for San Francisco.

The city's Board of Supervisors must adopt it within a week. The declaration would strengthen San Francisco's response to the rising number of cases.

Breed wrote the legal document will "mobilize city resources, accelerate emergency planning, streamline staffing, coordinate agencies across the city, allow for future reimbursement by the state and federal governments and raise awareness throughout San Francisco about how everyone can stop the spread of monkeypox in our community."

The mayor emphasized that the emergency declaration focuses solely on attaining the resources to respond to the virus. The city is not implementing behavior restrictions, as they did during COVID. 

The mayor, alongside state and city officials held a news conference about the declaration.

"This is not going to be ignored. This is a public health crisis," Breed said in her calls for more vaccines.

"We are at a very scary place and we don’t want to be ignored by the federal government in our need," said the mayor. "So many leaders of the LGBTQ community have also, weeks ago, asked for additional support and assistance."

While monkeypox cases are seldom deadly, SFDPH Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said some people with the disease are unable to eat, urinate or have bowel movements due to pain.

"Even though no one has died of monkeypox in San Francisco, it is causing severe pain for many individuals," said SFDPH Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip. "I know these are strong words, but this is the reason we must act now."

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said he's talked to doctors and those in the community who have seen "lifelong disfigurement" from the disease.

Other local leaders spoke about learning from the past and the long-lasting damage many in the LGBTQ+ community suffered during the AIDS epidemic.

"I feel like this is like deja vu. That, once again, gay men are getting attacked and demonized and blamed as we get sick," State Sen. Scott Wiener said.

Wiener said the federal government did not do enough to prepare for this moment.

"We need more vaccines yesterday," he said.

He also called for pharmaceutical companies to step up to help out with production of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine and said that one manufacturer is not enough. Wiener is concerned that the disease could become endemic in the U.S.

While the disease does not spread as easily as COVID-19, the World Health Organization declared it a Global Health Emergency last Saturday.

Additionally, the mayor emphasized the greater risk that monkeypox poses to the LGBTQ community, as well as how the disease is disproportionately affecting the city's Latino community.