BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Health officials are offering advice on how to manage monkeypox concerns as cases steadily rise in the state and the Southern Decadence festival is set to start later this week in New Orleans.
“We are expecting 10s of thousands of people in New Orleans over this Labor Day weekend and so being able to prepare for that and to get a head start on the vaccinations, on the testing, on the communications are all extremely important,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is reporting 181 cases of Monkeypox as of Tuesday. The majority of cases are in the New Orleans area, with a few dozen spread out around the state.
The majority of cases (59%) are in ages 30-49, and 34% in 18-29, 59% of cases have been found in Black or African Americans, 28% are White and 89% of Louisiana’s cases have been found in men.
Health officials on the White House monkeypox response team said they are focusing on LGBTQ events around the country to roll out the vaccine and educate the heavily impacted populations. Louisiana is getting an additional 6,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine ahead of the festival.
“From a CDC perspective we really look at this as an opportunity to reach individuals that need information about monkeypox, how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe,” said Capt. Jennifer McQuiston, CDC monkeypox response incident manager.
LDH said those who currently qualify for the monkeypox vaccine are gay and bisexual men, transgender women, nonbinary people, and those who have sex with men. The goal of setting up at Southern Decadence is to not prevent the disease there, since it will take two doses and weeks in between to become fully vaccinated, but rather to reach those impacted.
“One of the things we have learned from our response to COVID-19 is that it is important to reach people where they are. It’s not enough to wait for people to show up at a doctor’s office or a county health department,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Louisiana had made a push for additional doses last month to get ahead of the event. Only recently had enough doses been freed up. The country has switched to having about four doses per vial rather than one.
The White House response team will be piloting mobile testing sites in New Orleans this week. Testing and vaccines will not only be available to residents but visitors as well.
“It’s less about the event and about the people and their dedication really trying to keep themselves and their communities safe,” said Demetre Daskalakis, White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.
Read more about Monkeypox and the current case number in the state here.
Read here about where to get tested or vaccinated at Southern Decadence this weekend.