During a White House press briefing Wednesday, Joe Biden’s two Monkeypox Czars said that the number of Monkeypox cases reported in the country each day is “trending downward,” but also claimed that increasingly, people are coming down with the disease through regular household contact.
National White House Monkeypox Coordinator Bob Fenton and Monkeypox Deputy Coordinator Dr. Demetre Daskalakis told reporters that they want to get more shots in arms of “vulnerable” Americans.
The White House announced the appointments of Fenton and Daskalakis to their Monkeypox positions on August 2, 2022.
Fenton is the Regional Administrator for FEMA Region 9 in the American West, and has twice served as Acting Administrator of FEMA. Daskalakis currently serves as Director of the CDC Division of HIV Prevention, and according to the White House, is “known as a national expert on health issues affecting the LGBGQIA+ communities, his clinical practice has focused on providing care for the underserved LGBTQIA+ communities.”
Daskalakis can be seen sporting a black leather bondage harness with a pentagram design in a promotional photo for the 2021 NYC Gay Pride Parade.
Dr. Demetre Daskalakis is recognized internationally as an expert in HIV prevention and has focused much of his career on the prevention and treatment of HIV and other STIs.
Happy to have him as one of our grand marshals for this year’s pride! #nycpride pic.twitter.com/7IWbcMldDE
— New York City Pride (@NYCPride) May 24, 2021
Daskalakis and his husband Michael Macneal own a goth-themed exercise studio in New York City called the Monster Cycle, which features a black spin-bike draped in leather fetish gear hanging from the ceiling, and a massive, 11-foot-tall light-up pentagram in the yoga studio.
Conservatives on Twitter reacted with alarm to the appointment of Daskalakis as White House Monkeypox Deputy Coordinator.
“We are letting insane people run this country,” said president of News Cycle media Jon Nicosia.
We are letting insane people run this country. pic.twitter.com/oTlJOxk7TN
— Jon Nicosia (@NewsPolitics) September 7, 2022
Sky News commentator Rita Panahi posted a “Nasty Pig Hero” photo of the new White House Monkeypox czar in a Village People get-up.
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) September 7, 2022
“I mean, if there was someone actually coordinating the spread of monkeypox, that dude looks like he could be the guy,” tweeted conservative journalist John Hawkins.
Daskalakis addressed the need to combat the “stigma” associated with Monkeypox in a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In Monkeypox: Avoiding the Mistakes of Past Infectious Disease, Daskalakis and his co-authors claimed that “focusing exclusively on one population when an infection is emerging” runs the risk of propagating “stigma” and a “narrow” public health response.
“Experience has shown the dangers of characterizing a disease by associating it with a single population or a particular identity,” the authors wrote in June. “Such associations can create stigma that outlives the outbreak and lost opportunities to detect and address the infection in other populations. Knowledge is power. It is the responsibility of public health entities to alert communities to threats that may adversely affect their health, even when the epidemiologic data are still evolving.”
Such concerns have led some health officials and HIV activists in the United States to ignore calls for sexual restraint, and say that calls for abstinence don’t work.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) however currently warns that “a rave, party, or club where there is minimal clothing and where there is direct, personal, often skin-to-skin contact” does indeed pose a risk.
The CDC also cautions against going to “enclosed spaces, such as back rooms, saunas, sex clubs, or private and public sex parties where intimate, often anonymous sexual contact with multiple partners occurs,” because those places “may have a higher likelihood of spreading monkeypox.”
“Avoid any rash you see on others and consider minimizing skin-to-skin contact,” the CDC suggests.
Monkeypox often causes a rash, fever, body aches, chills fatigue, and sometimes lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
Fenton said Wednesday that the Biden administration has enough vaccines for the Americans who are “most vulnerable to Monkeypox.”
“Our focus now is to reach the remainder of eligible populations where they are, at trusted locations and events across the country,” he said.
The goal is to get more shots in arms of the 1.6 million Americans most vulnerable to moneypox, which has most often affected men who have sex with men. About 460,000 doses have gone out so far, but Daskalakis noted that only includes data from about half of local jurisdictions.
The coordinators said one outreach method is the administration’s continued work with pride events around the country, most recently including more than 3,000 doses administered at Southern Decadence in New Orleans and nearly 4,000 at Black Pride in Atlanta.
“Now that supply is less of an issue, we need to make sure we focus on maintaining demand by making sure that people know that effective and safe vaccine is available for those that could benefit,” Daskalakis said.
Daskalakis also claimed that Monkeypox is increasingly spreading through normal household contact, and that there is a need to put “equity at the forefront.”