The Biden administration has announced its plans to finally end the emergency declaration for … monkeypox.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday that it would not renew the emergency declaration for the monkeypox epidemic when it expires on January 31. HHS cited a continuing declining trend in total case counts as the reason it was not renewing the emergency. The news comes even as the Biden administration reportedly has no plans to lift the COVID emergency declaration.
“From the outset of the mpox outbreak, the Administration pulled every lever to stop the spread of this virus,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Friday announcing the decision. “In August, the Department of Health and Human Services declared a Public Health Emergency that further strengthened and accelerated the response to produce results. Given the low number of cases today, HHS does not expect that it needs to renew the emergency declaration when it ends on January 31, 2023.” Becerra said that public health officials would continue to work with state and local officials to monitor trends, and encouraged at-risk individuals to get vaccinated.
Case counts of monkeypox have steadily trended downward since the peak of the outbreak in August, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So far this week, a total of 31 new cases were reported, with a seven-day rolling average of just seven. Just a single new case was reported on Sunday; 13 cases were reported on Monday; just five on Tuesday; and 16 on Wednesday.
At the height of the epidemic in July and August, several hundred new cases were being reported every day, at an average of about 450 per day. The highest single-day number of new cases reported was 638 on August 1. HHS declared an emergency on August 4. The declaration was renewed earlier this month.
Just days ago, the White House backed the World Health Organization’s move to rename the virus from monkeypox to “mpox” in order to remove racist “stigma” against Africans, since the virus is endemic to Africa.
“We welcome the change by the World Health Organization,” Becerra said in a press release Monday. “We must do all we can to break down barriers to public health, and reducing stigma associated with disease is one critical step in our work to end mpox.”
In response to the name change, all federal public health agencies would adopt the “mpox” name in their correspondence with medical professionals and the public. HHS said that changing the name of the virus would “help enhance the U.S. response to mpox by using a term that does not conjure bias or stigma,” and “aid efforts to reach the most impacted communities with a term for the disease that doesn’t act to marginalize individuals from accessing the care, resources, and support they need to protect themselves and others.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has no plans to revoke the COVID emergency declaration. According to a report from The Hill, HHS is supposed to inform stakeholders 60 days beforehand that the administration will not renew the emergency declaration. That deadline passed on November 14. The latest declaration will last until January 11.