Georgia does not declare a public health emergency due to a monkeypox outbreak

States generally have broad powers to act to prevent and control the spread of disease, such as issuing isolation or quarantine orders, without having to issue a declaration of emergency. Stacey Kershner, deputy director of the Georgia State Legislature’s Center for Law, Health and Society, said state officials need to make calculations about whether an emergency order is needed for the monkeypox outbreak to free up resources and speed up their response.

Stacey Kershner, Associate Director at the Georgia State Law Center for Law, Health and Society

Credit: Georgia State University

Credit: Georgia State University

Stacey Kershner, Associate Director at the Georgia State Law Center for Law, Health and Society

Credit: Georgia State University

Credit: Georgia State University

“It’s a delicate balance. And that’s, that’s something where the state wants to weigh all the factors and decide whether to issue an order right now or wait to see if it becomes more necessary,” Kershner.

The number of monkeypox cases in Georgia rose to 951 late Monday from 211 cases three weeks ago.

For now, Georgia seems to be in the “wait and see” group, she says.

When available time, personnel and resources are insufficient to address a communicable disease threat, States will consider declaring a public health emergency to allow them to do everything from diverting staff from their normal duties to helping respond to an outbreak, suspending normal bureaucratic hiring or purchasing processes to act quickly.

With vaccines, the emergency order could help facilitate distribution by allowing more people, such as emergency physicians, to administer vaccines. But that doesn’t increase the amount of vaccines currently available, she said. For monkeypox, a big part of the problem is access to vaccines from the federal government. At this point, there’s not much the state can do to speed that up, she said.

“I really don’t understand the wait-and-see approach,” said Nathan Townsend, manager of prevention services for NAESM, an organization that works to address black gay men’s health issues. He worked to get people vaccinated against monkeypox.

Whether the state declares a state of emergency or not, the important thing is that the government takes the necessary steps to control the outbreak, Townsend said. He said the vaccine shortage is the most pressing and urgent problem, but state health officials need to improve communication about where and how to get the vaccine. The Georgia Department of Public Health late Monday announced a centralized online vaccine registry where anyone can sign up for monkeypox or COVID-19 vaccinations.

The federal government recently declared a public health emergency to ramp up the response to the monkeypox outbreak. The announcement frees up money and other resources to fight the virus, which can cause fever and body aches and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body.

The Georgia Department of Health has a mass monkeypox vaccination clinic in Dekalb County

The Georgia Department of Health has a mass monkeypox vaccination clinic in Dekalb County

The Georgia Department of Health has a mass monkeypox vaccination clinic in Dekalb County

The declaration of on The Department of Health and Human Services comes as the Biden administration faces criticism over the speed of availability of a monkeypox vaccine. The White House said it provided more than 1.1 million doses and helped boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests a week.

The Biden administration has authorized a new way to inject the monkeypox vaccine in an effort to expand the low supply. The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to allow smaller doses of the Jynneos vaccine to be injected just under the skin, which will increase the number of doses available up to fivefold.

That could translate into a sudden increase in doses, and NAESM’s Townsend said Georgia may need to reconsider issuing a state of emergency to help quickly administer all those doses.

The governors of California, New York and Illinois have also declared states of emergency in response to the monkeypox outbreak. Some cities, including New York and San Francisco, have also made their own emergency declarations.

The monkeypox virus is spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, and sharing bedding and towels. Most cases so far have occurred in men who have sex with men, but health officials stress that the virus can infect anyone.

So far, no deaths have been reported in the U.S. during this growing outbreak. Several deaths have been reported in other countries.

Under the federal declaration, HHS can draw on emergency funds, hire or reassign staff to deal with the outbreak and take other measures to control the virus.

For example, the announcement should help the federal government seek more information from state and local health officials about who is getting infected and who is getting vaccinated. This information can be used to better understand how the outbreak is developing and how well the vaccine is working.

Those who contract monkeypox – barring any complications – can be isolated and recuperated at home, without straining hospital resources; and because monkeypox is not highly transmissible outside of prolonged, close personal contact, there is no social distancing protocol for the general population, Eisenhour said.

“However, I want to reiterate that there is no lack of concern or willingness to take further action on the part of the state,” Eisenhour said. He said the Kemp administration and health officials are closely monitoring the spread of the virus. He did not rule out that one would be announced in the future.

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