The Riverside County board of supervisors unanimously passed a motion to declare a state of emergency for monkeypox.
This comes as the county reports nine new probable/confirmed monkeypox cases. 6 of them are from the Coachella Valley. There are now a total of 87 cases in the county, 78 of those are in the Coachella Valley.
Contrary to original reports from the county, all probable or confirmed cases are male. We do not have any reports of women in Riverside County.
Riverside County officials declared a state of emergency to expedite Monkeypox benefits from the state. Local health leaders addressed the decision on Monday.
"There's a lot that we don't know about Monkeypox. And we also felt that scarcity of vaccine that, you know, doing this could also help us with in asking for more vaccines", said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, Public health officer for Riverside County.
"So we most of all wanted to make sure that the community knows this is a serious and severe issue. It is a little bit different than COVID. Because we have a vaccine, and we have treatment. But the resources are very limited. And the cases have been rising quickly," Leung added. "We do not expect it to impact hospitals or emergency rooms how COVID affects our hospitals. However, we do know that it does have the potential to spread easily within the community."
Some local residents say they’re not too worried about the rise in cases.
“There's always going to be something new. It's a virus. So every time we're conquering one, we're just gonna have another one. So I believe we just have to be careful," said Palm Springs resident Sean Mottola.
On the other hand, Supervisor Manuel Perez discussed the potential for events being canceled in the Coachella Valley during Monday's meeting. “Just in case, eventually, we may have to declare a local state of emergency. And there are going to be events happening very soon out here and I just want them to be mindful that potentially we may need to cancel those events.”
Events could include Leather Pride in October and Palm Springs Pride in November. But one Palm Springs business owner believes it shouldn’t have to come to that just yet. “We're obviously buying for the gay pride and the leather pride weekends, because they're very big weekends for us," said Bear Wear owner Phillip Chesterman, "I mean, they really make the year. So if they get called off for this monkey pox epidemic, then it's really not fair on everyone. I think a lot of business owners are going to be up in arms about it. And to be honest, I'm not so sure that we do have to stop just because of this.”
Chesterman explained he’s on board with following the County’s guidelines to keep the community safe, as long as businesses are being communicated with. “I can understand it at the end of the day, but they need to keep us more informed as business owners here because it really affects our bottom dollar, you know, I'm buying for it.”
No events have been canceled due to Monkeypox and many hope there will be enough vaccines distributed before that has to happen.
The President of Palm Springs Pride responded to the potential cancellation of events with this statement:
Our focus at Palm Springs Pride is to help our community know the facts, understand prevention and have equitable access to care and treatment for MPV. It’s essential our community receives accurate and timely information. While at the same time, the public health priority must be on vaccine availability. Having more vaccine doses available will help slow the spread of the virus.
This is an excellent opportunity for public health messaging to raise awareness of the facts about MPV so that people can protect themselves.
Individually we need to be responsible and take appropriate action.Ron deHarte
The county announced on Monday it received about 1,750 additional vaccines based on requests they've made. The county said it will continue to request other vaccines from the state.
"DAP, health, Eisenhower, and Desert Oasis, there are several providers in the east part of the county that is working with us on vaccine distribution with our vaccine supply. And then we are hoping that there will be state and federal funding coming down," said Kim Saruwatari, the Director of Public Health for Riverside County.
"So coordination and collaboration are extreme. In terms of vaccine supply, the state of California currently allocates vaccines based on the number of monkeypox cases and the number of early syphilis cases in a jurisdiction. So in a place like Riverside County, where we know that we have many people coming in as tourists, we have a vast sex tourism industry in the greater Palm Springs area," Saruwatari added.