Biden Administration Will Declare Monkeypox “Public Health Emergency” – CNN reported on Thursday that the Biden administration plans to declare the Monkeypox virus outbreak a public health emergency as early as today.
According to a source familiar with the decision, the announcement will come from the Department of Health and Human Services. It comes amidst a rise in cases of in virtually all states across the country. The virus was first identified in the United States in May and is believed to have infected more than 6,600 people.
Individuals infected with Monkeypox suffer blisters and rashes on their skin, though the symptoms eventually subside.
What Is A Public Health Emergency?
A public health emergency is declared by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act. An emergency is declared when a disorder or a disease presents an emergency to public health and lasts for 90 days.
After declaring an emergency, the Secretary can take “appropriate actions in response to the emergency consistent with other authorities.” It grants the power to initiate and support investigations into the cause, treatment, and prevention of the disease or disorder and also allows the Secretary to “provide supplies, equipment, and services” to the Department to assist in the reduction of the spread of a virus.
The declaration also provides other sweeping powers to the Secretary and the Department, including the appointment of new personnel, more flexible use of government funds, and the establishment of military trauma care providers.
Will It Mean New Mask Mandates?
If Monkeypox continues to spread, it is unlikely that mask mandates will be reimplemented to control its spread as the virus is not airborne. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monkeypox can spread to anybody through close, personal contact. That includes direct contact with Monkeypox rashes and scabs or bodily fluids from somebody who is already infected by the virus.
The CDC does not consider Monkeypox to be airborne, but does state that the virus can spread via “contact with respiratory secretions.” It means that, at least in close proximity, the virus could spread through tiny droplets that may be produced by the mouth or nose during conversation or in close contact.
At this stage, it is unclear whether the CDC considers masks an effective way to prevent the spread of Monkeypox, and no guidance has been given suggesting as much. However, if the virus spreads at an increasingly rapid rate, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the CDC recommends using masks while in close contact with others.
Should state governments, or even the federal government, consider any new guidance or mandates, then they will likely center around preventing direct contact. The CDC outlines a number of scenarios in which Monkeypox can spread, including through “intimate contact” with infected people – including oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Hugging, massage, and kissing can also spread the virus, as well as contact with bedding, towels, sex toys, and “fetish gear.”
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.