Big states are declaring public emergencies over monkeypox, but no FL announcements yet

500 monkeypox cases have spread to 22 counties

By: - August 2, 2022 6:17 pm

Blood sample tube positive with Monkeypox virus. Credit: Getty Images

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a proclamation Monday, “declaring the monkeypox virus a public health emergency and declaring the state of Illinois a disaster area regarding the disease,” according to a press statement.

Likewise, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a “proclamation of a state of emergency” Aug. 1 over the monkeypox outbreak.

A few days earlier, New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Mary T. Bassett “declared monkeypox an Imminent Threat to Public Health (ITPH) in New York State,” according to the declaration letter.

But in Florida, there’s no announcement yet on a public emergency declaration, despite 480 monkeypox cases in 22 counties — a third of Florida’s counties.  South Florida’s Broward County has the highest number of cases, 225, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.

In addition, Florida ranks 4th in the number of cases in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  New York is at 1,390 cases; California, 827, Illinois, 520 and Florida, 442. (Keep in mind that state health department figures are usually higher than the CDC figures for Florida.)

Overall, there are some 6,000 monkeypox cases spread across the United States, and about 25,000 cases globally, in 83 countries. Of all those countries, the United States has the highest number of cases, according to the CDC data.

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the Surfside tragedy in South Florida, state officials have declared a state of emergency many times, but thus far there haven’t been any announcements on declaring a monkeypox public health emergency.

The Florida Phoenix contacted the state Department of Health Tuesday to ask about whether the agency plans to declare a public health emergency — given that other big states are pursuing the issue — but there’s been no response yet.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, wrote to the Phoenix, saying:

“I am not sure how that decision is made in other states, but in Florida states of emergency are issued to unlock funding flexibilities for a finite and specific emergency that requires additional funding for government to address.

“The Department of Health would be best positioned to provide an update on monkeypox in Florida and the public health response, as well as the next steps.”

A public emergency declaration does trigger help in a health crisis.

For example, in Illinois, “Declaring a state of disaster expands the resources and coordination efforts of state agencies in responding to, treating, and preventing the spread of monkeypox. Proclaiming a state of disaster will allow IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) to expand vaccine and testing capacities with the help of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and via state and federal recovery and assistance funds. This proclamation will aid in facilitating the complicated logistics and transportation of vaccines across the state to reach the most impacted communities efficiently,” according to the Illinois press release.

Tuesday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis, requesting that he declare a state of emergency in light of rising monkeypox cases.

“While we are likely to see monkeypox cases continue to increase over the coming weeks, the state can – and must – take immediate action to limit the impact of this outbreak by declaring a state of emergency,” Fried wrote. “Putting in place a strong, statewide emergency response that coordinates and leverages our county health departments will help Floridians access vaccines and other resources to protect themselves and others from the spread of monkeypox. I will continue to advocate for additional federal resources for Florida as needed and my department stands ready to provide assistance in disseminating critical public health and awareness information from state and federal agency partners throughout this global health emergency.”

The full letter can be seen here.

The Phoenix and the nonprofit States Newsroom network recently reported that:

“No Americans have died so far from the virus that can include chills, exhaustion, fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. Monkeypox often also comes with a rash that can look like pimples or blisters, according to the CDC.  The World Health Organization has reported at least five deaths globally — three in Nigeria and two in Central African Republic, WHO data show.

“The virus is spread through direct physical contact with someone who has the rash or lesions on their body as well as through respiratory droplets during prolonged, close contact, or contact with items like bedding or towels that someone with the rash has used.

“The current outbreak of monkeypox in the United States, Europe and other countries that don’t traditionally experience the virus, is predominantly occurring in gay or bisexual people, or men who have sex with men, according to public health officials. However, others can become infected with monkeypox if they have been in close contact with someone who has the virus.”

Here’s the latest numbers on monkeypox cases in FL:

County Monkeypox cases
  Alachua 1
  Brevard 1
  Broward 225
  Collier 3
  Duval 5
  Flagler 1
  Hillsborough 16
  Lake 2
  Lee 4
  Martin 2
  Miami-Dade 113
  Monroe 12
  Orange 32
  Osceola 3
  Palm Beach 30
  Pasco 1
  Pinellas 20
  Polk 3
  Santa Rosa 1
  Sarasota 1
  Seminole 3
  Volusia 1

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.