DAP HEALTH RESPONDS TO THE MONKEYPOX GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY
August 22, 2022
When monkeypox was declared a global health emergency, DAP Health was quick to respond. “We've already gone down this path, said CJ Tobe, DAP Health director of community health and sexual wellness. “We already have partnerships and workflows. So, it was just like, oh, we just have to do what we did through COVID. I mean, that’s what monkeypox is resembling.”
As of mid-August, there were 2,356 confirmed cases of monkeypox in California; 94 of which are in Riverside County. 97.7 % of those infected are male. 94.5% identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. “We are seeing a significant impact on men who have sex with men, people who are doing sex work, massage therapy, group sex, the party and play community, anybody that really has that physical touch that they have in their life,” said Tobe. “Those are the people most at risk right now for monkeypox.”
After an initial meeting with the Riverside County Department of Public Health and establishing an internal monkeypox task force, Tobe reached out to the business owners in the community including the CCBC Resort and All Worlds Resorts. “Those are probably the two [biggest] venues here in our area when it comes to sex venues and people doing group sex and living their authentic sexual lives,” he said. “All Worlds’ owners immediately closed the maze room. That's where a lot of the group sex happens. We're talking hundreds of people. They immediately said ‘for the health and well-being of our community and to stop the spread of monkeypox, we're closing the maze down. So, they made that determination.”
“We then connected the CCBC Resort with Riverside County,” continued Tobe. “There are currently vaccines that are happening as we speak where Riverside County is actually providing vaccines on site at this men's resort.”
“We have another virus that is specifically attacking men who have sex with men, and we know, just like with HIV, [the virus] attacked gay men specifically right at the beginning, but now it’s impacting Black folks, heterosexuals trans folks... a whole bunch of people,” Tobe added. “With monkeypox, it's going to be the same thing. It's just so interesting to see how this virus may impact one community at the start, but we're all people so it's going to continue to spread throughout this community, which is why prevention and vaccines are so important.”
Access to vaccines, however, has been difficult. There is a limited amount available. David Brinkman, chief executive officer and president of DAP Health has reached out to elected officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advocate for more vaccines. Because of the short supply, DAP Health is following county guidelines to determine who is eligible to receive the two-dose inoculation. “We're leading the effort as far as vaccines,” said Tobe. “DAP Health received 160 vaccines on July 20th, and we went through all of them in five days. We just received 337 more doses so we are calling patients now for them to come in so we can start administering them.”
Like the COVID vaccine rollout, there are simply not enough to meet the immediate need. “When we look at monkeypox, knowing that there are limited supply vaccines, we need to make sure that the people most at risk are getting those vaccines first,” said Tobe. “As we continue to get more vaccines, we'll continue to follow the priorities that are given to us by the county. But right now, we're just in a situation where we are rationing vaccines, and we have to make sure that these vaccines get into the people at risk and then, as more vaccines become available, we'll widen our guidelines, which will be to all people, if they choose.”
On August 1, 2022, DAP Health launched a monkeypox hotline. “Anybody in the community that wants updated information... or who has questions can call the hotline,” said Tobe. “Anybody who wants to be assessed for getting access to monkeypox testing and/or the vaccines would have the most updated information coming through this hotline that will be triaged and responded by our volunteers.” The hotline – which can be reached at 760-656-8432 or MPox@daphealth.org --operates Monday-Friday, 8:00 – 11:30 am and 1:00 -4:00 pm. Those calling after hours will receive recorded information.
Partnerships with other organizations have also played an important part in DAP Health’s overall strategy. “Desert Healthcare District is always a great partner,” said Tobe. “We've had a call with them, Desert Oasis, Healthcare, Riverside County Department of Public Health. I know Borrego Health and Eisenhower Health attend the weekly community forums. There's just really a lot of partnerships and communication and dialogue that's continuing to happen.”
In fact, DAP Health, Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, Desert Care Network and the City of Palm Springs recently collaborated on creating a high-profile, full-page advertisement in the August 14th edition of the Sacramento Bee to call attention to the lack of monkeypox vaccines being distributed to the LGBTQ+ community, currently the population most affected by the virus.
DAP Health is also getting the word out though its social media channels. “We're advertising on social media like Grindr,” said Tobe. “It's really targeted to specific audiences that are most impacted, making sure that they [see ads on their apps] where they can click and be steered to our landing page: daphealth.org/monkeypox. So, people have the most updated information.”
DAP Health’s response will continue to evolve to meet the needs of its clients as the outbreak continues and new challenges arise. “It's just in our DNA to continue to respond to crisis after crisis,” said Tobe. “We’re going to continue to do it for years to come. It’s in our DNA to be proactive in our response.”