Bronxites rise above 14% of city’s monkeypox cases, feds declare public health emergency

Monkeypox Vaccine
While vaccine supply has been an issue in recent weeks, appointments were available Wednesday evening.
Photo Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP

As Bronxites make up 14.57% of monkeypox cases citywide according to the most recently released data, vaccine appointments are few and far between.

The percentage is a slight increase from the almost 13.4% a week earlier and 11.4% the week before.

The most recent demographic data, reflective of last Tuesday’s citywide case count of 1,558, was released on Thursday. Bronxites make up 227 cases, trailing behind Brooklyn with 374 cases and Manhattan with 759 cases. Queens has 191 cases and Staten Island has just 7, according to the data.

The most prominent age group is 30-39 years old with 768 cases, with 330 cases among people ages 40-49 and 307 cases among those 20-29. Just four people ages 19 and younger are part of the case count, and 148 people aged 50 and older.

The vast majority of cases so far account for cisgender men, at 1,522 cases. Nine women and 21 transgender or non-binary people are included in the data, as well as six people for which the gender is unknown.

There are 445 white people, 439 Hispanic people and 389 Black people accounted for in the data, as well as 61 Asians or Pacific Islanders, 17 people of another race or ethnicity and 207 people for which racial or ethnic data is missing.

The sexual orientation is unknown for more than 44% of cases, or 464 people who tested positive, while 1,052 of people who tested positive identify as LGBQ+ and 42 identify as straight.

But with new cases each day, the demographic data is not reflective of the most current case count, and officials have acknowledged there are likely many more cases than diagnosed. As of Friday, there were 1,738 cases reported citywide, which rose to 1,937 on Monday, which is 379 cases more than the most recently shared demographic data accounts for.

As of Wednesday, neighboring Westchester County had 41 cases, or 38% of all cases in the state excluding NYC, an increase of 9 cases from the week prior, according to state data.

According to CDC data, 7,510 cases have been reported in the U.S. as of Friday, of which 1,862 are in New York state — more than any other state — a figure the city itself has exceeded in the matter of days.

The alarm bells are going off on a local, state, national and global scale, with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday declaring a public health emergency.

Mayor Eric Adams declared a local state of emergency on Aug. 1 following Gov. Kathy Hochul’s declaration of a state disaster emergency on July 29. The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on July 23 declared a public health emergency of international concern.

Yet still, vaccine supply is low.

The online portal to schedule vaccine appointments in NYC on Monday afternoon had no available appointments. But those at high risk can still be referred to appointments, albeit limited, through select community based organizations like the South Bronx’s Destination Tomorrow.

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is not making the list of organizations public — nor sharing whether there is another organization in the Bronx with access to appointments — so as not to overwhelm them with new clients seeking appointments, health department spokesperson Michael Lanza told the Bronx Times, adding that the organizations already know who their high-risk clients are.

Some Bronxites are going to a Central Harlem clinic at 2238 5th Avenue to get the monkeypox vaccine. Photo Adrian Childress

Any unfilled appointments given to the local organizations are added back to the public portal on a rolling basis, he said.

Lanza did not have an update Monday afternoon on when more appointments will be available to the public via the city’s online vaccination portal. The health department’s update last Wednesday said that out of 32,000 new doses, 23,000 were made available online last Thursday evening with the rest reserved for those referred by community partner organizations like Destination Tomorrow, health care providers and close contacts of known cases.

And when supply is available, eligibility is limited to those 18-years-old and older who are gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men and/or are transgender, gender non-conforming or gender non-binary, and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last two weeks.

Sage Rivera, chief development and programs officer at Destination Tomorrow, said in an interview with the Bronx Times that the organization has been easily filling up the approximately 15 appointments its been allocated per week. Rivera, who uses they/them pronouns, said the organization has “barely” enough appointments to meet the demand they’re seeing, filling up the slots fast without advertising the resource much, not wanting to give false hopes to people who want immediate appointments.

“We do have faith that we’ll have access to enough appointments that we’ll be able to, sort of, advertise more widely, but because of the availability of appointments that we’ve been allocated, we’ve had to tailor how we advertise the resource,” Rivera said. “So should more appointments become available, we’d be able to cast a wider net in advertising the resource.”

The organization has been setting up appointments at the Central Harlem vaccination site, which has been easier for clients to get to than the Bronx High School of Science, the initial sole vaccination site, Rivera said. The Bronx has since gained Lincoln Hospital as a site for vaccines as well.

Information about symptoms, transmission and prevention can be found at the NYC Health monkeypox webpage.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.

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