- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The Biden administration is expected to declare monkeypox a public health emergency in the coming days, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The declaration, which is made by the Department of Health and Human Services, would follow a similar decision made last weekend by the World Health Organization. By designating the outbreak an emergency, HHS could then take a slew of actions, including accessing new money and appointing new personnel, according to the law that dictates how and when the federal government can declare such an emergency.
The people with knowledge of the matter said the declaration is expected as soon as the end of the week. But the decision is not yet final, and a spokesperson for HHS said the agency “is continuing to explore options.”
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is scheduled to hold a press conference on monkeypox Thursday morning.
A spokesperson for the White House said there were no updates at this time.
Biden officials have for days debated whether to declare monkeypox a public health emergency as health officials in the U.S. and at the WHO this week said the risk to the general population is low. HHS has declared several public health emergencies in recent years, including Covid-19 and the opioid crisis.
“I do think it deserves to be one,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We're having a lot of challenges around the country with their rate of rise in terms of new cases. It isn't isn't an emergency posing a … high threat to the general population. But it's still moving … and has the potential to spread to additional vulnerable communities.”
The conversations about such a declaration come as the virus continues to spread throughout the country. In the U.S., nearly 3,600 cases have been reported. New York City remains the epicenter of the outbreak, with most cases occurring among men who have sex with men.
The CDC on Tuesday said it was making monkeypox a nationally notifiable condition, which directs state public health agencies to use a certain definition for identifying cases and follow a specific rubric when submitting surveillance data to the agency. The move will allow the CDC to more closely monitor the spread across the country.
Still, concerns about the virus’ spread have caused some within the administration to worry about future transmission given the lack of available vaccine doses. The Biden administration has also faced growing criticism over the pace of its response from public health experts who fear the window to contain and eradicate the disease is closing.
HHS is expected to announce the release of several hundred thousand more doses this week after the Food and Drug Administration said it had completed its inspection of the vaccine at a manufacturing site in Denmark.
Sarah Owermohle contributed to this report.