Pritzker declares monkeypox public health emergency

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during a press conference early in the Covid-19 pandemic. (Screenshot)

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday declared the monkeypox virus a public health emergency and declaring the state a disaster area regarding the disease.

The declaration, which applies to the entire state, will allow the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to utilize resources for coordinating logistics to distribution vaccines. The proclamation will also assist state agencies in coordinating response with the federal government.

“MPV is a rare, but potentially serious disease that requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources to prevent the spread,” Pritzker said in a statement. “That’s why I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure smooth coordination between state agencies and all levels of government, thereby increasing our ability to prevent and treat the disease quickly. We have seen this virus disproportionately impact the LGBTQ+ community in its initial spread. Here in Illinois we will ensure our LGBTQ+ community has the resources they need to stay safe while ensuring members are not stigmatized as they access critical health care.”

The declaration also authorizes emergency procurements to facilitate the state’s response. The proclamation takes effect immediately and is in place for 30 days.

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on July 23, and the Center for Disease Control has been closely monitoring and consulting with states in addressing the outbreak across the United States. Illinois currently has reported 520 cases of confirmed or presumptive monkeypox virus, the third most in the country. The state has received more than 7,000 doses of vaccine from the federal government, with 13,000 additional doses expected in the near future. The majority of cases have been in the Chicago area, but there have been presumptive cases throughout the state.

Pritzker asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase Illinois’ vaccine allotment last month.

“A comprehensive and swift response is key when containing a disease outbreak,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “These measures will allow the state to deploy all our resources in fighting this disease and will open efficient lines of communication and cooperation across state lines, an essential step in tracking monkeypox and improving tools and processes to prevent and address it.”

Howard Brown Health, an LGBTQ health system in Chicago, welcomed the announcement.

“We have seen how devastating this virus can be, and have encountered unnecessary barriers to providing appropriate MPV prevention and treatment services for our patients,” the organization said in a statement. “This emergency declaration must serve as an urgent call to action for our state leaders to coordinate a comprehensive and equitable response to the MPV outbreak. This response should prioritize increasing vaccine access, decreasing barriers to treatment, simplifying the testing process, collaborating with and funding trusted community partners, and ensuring access to factual and non-stigmatizing information about MPV and harm reduction.”