The first confirmed death caused by Monkeypox in the U.S. occurred this week in Los Angeles County, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
The patient was described as “immunocompromised” and was hospitalized prior to their death.
“We send our deepest sympathies to the family members, friends and others mourning the loss of their loved one,” said Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the Health Department.
This comes amid widespread case increases of the disease across the state. Currently California has the largest number of cases (4,453) in the U.S., which includes the 1,820 cases in L.A. County — six of which have now been identified in children.
Singhal said eligibility for a monkeypox vaccine has broadened since its inception.
“We strongly recommend eligible residents get vaccinated and it is now easier than ever to access the vaccine,” said Singhal. “Residents can either walk up to a vaccination site or make an appointment [online] to be vaccinated at a nearby community partner or provider vaccination site.”
Vaccination eligibility has opened up to children ages 12 through 17, who can do so without parental consent at Public Health sites. Minors ages six months to 12 will need parental consent.
The vaccine consists of two shots, taken 28 days apart.
While Monkeypox has taken its first victim, it still pales in comparison to the threat COVID-19 still poses even as case rates and other metrics have begun to fall, health officials said.
According to data and analysis from the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 was the largest contributor to life expectancy being lowered in the U.S. from 2020 to 2021 — the first time life expectancy has dropped consecutively since the 1920s.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said while these facts are stark, the updated vaccines may offer some hope that past winter surges will not repeat.
“While it’s humbling to look back and be reminded of the enormity of the impact of COVID on our lives, we’re also encouraged as we face our third winter with COVID because we’re headed into the colder months with an updated fall booster that matched the variants that are currently circulating.”
Currently COVID-related deaths are averaging at about 14 per day in the county, with case rates at 1,700 per day. The drop in these metrics, including hospitalizations ( per 100,000 people) does, however, mean that L.A. County has been in the CDC’s “low” community tier for three straight weeks, spelling out a potential change in indoor masking recommendations and regulations.
If L.A. County can keep its case rates below 100 per 100,000 people, it could mean that mandates or recommendations in places such as public transit and other indoor public settings would shift to “individual preference” or “strongly recommended”.
“If our reported cases continue to decline at the same rate they did last week, we expect to cross this threshold before the end of the month,” said Director of Public Health, Barbara Ferrer. “However, if the rate of decline speeds up or slows down, the timeline for crossing the threshold will change.”
In the former scenario, masks will still be required in healthcare settings, senior care facilities, jails and prison, or anywhere where the business or venue has deemed it a policy. It will also still be required for those who have COVID-19 for 10 days after their first symptoms, or 10 days for anyone exposed to someone with COVID-19.