Riverside County reported an additional two new cases of monkeypox (MPX) on Sept. 28, pushing the county’s total cases to 281.
Riverside County reported an additional two new cases of monkeypox (MPX) on Sept. 28, pushing the county’s total cases to 281. Credit: Freepik.com / stefamerpik

Breanna Reeves |

Riverside County reported an additional two new cases of monkeypox (MPX) on Sept. 28, pushing the county’s total cases to 281. 

The county has expanded the criteria for those who are interested in receiving the MPX vaccine. Previously, only certain groups that worked in specific settings and industries were given priority for vaccinations, along with men who have sex with other men or who had multiple partners.

“We recently broadened our criteria for who can get the MPX vaccine. As of Friday, we have broadened it to gay, same gender loving or bisexual men, or any men [who are] gender diverse or transgender men or women who have sex with men, transgender men or transgender women,” said Dr. Jennifer Chevinksy, Deputy Public Health Officer at Riverside University Health System (RUHS) – Public Health, in a daily update on Monday.

Dr. Chevinsky explained that the county was able to broaden the criteria because the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) allocated an additional 1,650 vials of the MPX vaccine. Additionally, Riverside County secured 55 vials from local counties, like San Bernardino who may have lower case counts in comparison. According to the county’s MPX dashboard, San Bernardino County reported a total of 95 cases so far.

The county has distributed 6,445 vials of the MPX vaccine and has fully vaccinated more than 2,800 residents throughout the county. Approximately 4,770 residents are partially vaccinated against MPX, with a majority of those who have received at least one dose located in Cathedral City and Palm Springs.

“This is also with the intention of trying to get as many people who are at risk vaccinated prior to Pride events,” Dr. Chevinsky explained. 

Pride events are set to take place in October, beginning with Leather Pride on Oct. 27 through Oct. 30 and Palm Springs Pride which begins on Nov. 4.

MPX protocols for schools and work

There have been more than 4,800 MPX cases in California. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) recently issued a guidance on MPX for employers that requires them to take steps to protect their employees such as providing respiratory protection and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees who may have been exposed to MPX.

The regulations also require that employers develop a written program to prevent “the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases specific to the workplace and operations,” report exposures to local health officers and remove employees from the workplace if a local health officer recommends the removal.

Unlike the guidance released by Cal/OSHA for California employers, safety protocols for schools may differ across different school districts and counties.

Two weeks ago, Riverside County reported its first pediatric case of MPX in a child from western Riverside county. The child was under the age of 10 years old and did not require hospitalization.

“This case reminds everyone that MPX can impact anyone, regarding of age, gender or sexual orientation,” said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, public health officer for Riverside County, in a press release. CDPH has reported a total of 11 pediatric cases in the state.

According to Diana Meza, Director of Public Information and Communications for Riverside Unified School District, if a suspect or confirmed case of MPX is reported to a school district, the District Health Services Department would have to contact the RUHS Public Health Disease Control Department for guidance.

“In regard to protocols for any rash associated illness, the individual cannot come to school or return to school until cleared by a doctor,” Meza said in an email.

A statement from San Bernardino City Unified School District stated that the district has not experienced any cases of MPX, but that campuses throughout the district already follow “everyday operational guidance that reduces the transmission of infectious diseases.”

“This includes children, staff, and volunteers staying home when sick, ensuring access to adequate hand washing supplies, including soap and water, maintaining routine cleaning and disinfection practices, identifying private spaces for assessment of an ill child away from others, and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for health staff who care for students who may have infectious diseases,” the statement read.

MPX cases remain low among children in the state, but can affect anyone if they have close or intimate contact such as skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPX.

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.