Will monkeypox affect Pride weekend in New York?


Will monkeypox affect Pride weekend in New York?

For LGBTQ people in New York City, the last Friday in June is usually a happy day. The streets come alive with the telltale signs of a festive weekend: music, dancing, kissing, the occasional trail of glittering confetti.

But this year, on the cusp of the city’s biggest Pride events, the atmosphere had a different tension. News Friday morning of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Toppling Wade immediately changed the tone of the weekend’s events. In many circles, group chats that days earlier had focused on party planning have shifted to coordinating protest plans. Complicating people’s attitude ahead of the weekend are questions and concerns surrounding monkeypox, a virus that disproportionately affects gay men.

On Thursday, New York City health officials expanded access to a monkeypox vaccine and offered it to men who had multiple or anonymous male sex partners in the past 14 days. As of Friday, 39 people in New York City had tested positive for the orthopoxvirus, according to the Department of Health and Mental Health, which added all 39 cases were suspected to be monkeypox.

According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox is transmitted from person to person through close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials. The virus typically begins with flu-like symptoms, such as fever and swollen lymph nodes, and progresses to a painful rash.

Though anyone can catch the virus, it’s currently spreading primarily through communities of men who have sex with men, officials said.

As photos of long lines of people waiting to be vaccinated at a sexual health clinic in Manhattan circulated on social media and as news of monkeypox cases spread around the world, some New Yorkers began to reconsider their plans for reconsider Pride weekend.

Joseph Osmundson, a clinical assistant professor of biology at New York University and a queer health advocate, said growing concerns about monkeypox impacted the Pride plans of “almost everyone” he knew.

“Everything from if you go to a circuit party, will you be in the middle of the dance floor or will you be more off the beaten track, to the types of sex you have,” Dr. Osmundson, 39, said in a phone interview.

He said he thinks people are generally “making risk-aware choices” while still making room for “companionship, enjoyment, community and getting out of the house.”

Finley King, 24, a film production assistant, said both monkeypox concerns and the Roe news impacted his plans for this weekend, but that he would be relatively comfortable attending a protest and standing on the sidelines or about going to an outdoor party.

“As far as my worries go, I’m a 4 out of 10 on the panic scale,‘ he said, adding that he hadn’t seen many of his friends talking about the disease. “I would say, mostly people my age, either they know something about monkeypox and don’t care, or they don’t know anything about it at all.”

Outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Rusty Fox, 59, said on Friday that the small concern he felt about monkeypox was probably just residual fear from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m a bit paranoid just because we’re right after Covid,” he said. “So that paranoia kind of oozes over.”

Michael Donnelly, a data scientist, expressed frustration that this year’s Pride celebrations have been colored by yet another virus.

“It really stinks that we’re dealing with yet another infectious disease spreading through our community and having to deal with an additional risk that we didn’t anticipate,” he said. But for Mr Donnelly, 37, the “huge demand” for the monkeypox vaccine on Thursday pointed to a silver lining.

“I’m proud that we have a community that is communicating about our health and science and is ready to get vaccines to protect ourselves and our communities as well,” he said.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on reducing your chances of contracting monkeypox, noting that festivals, concerts and other events where attendees were likely to be fully clothed were safer than places including Raves, saunas and sex clubs where minimal clothing was worn.

Some, like Chris Pierce, 26, were confident their personal precautions were sufficient.

“It’s definitely something people should be concerned about, especially when we’re inside closed doors and walls,” he said, “but staying outside is probably my #1 goal this weekend.”

The only facility in New York administering the vaccine, the city-run Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic in Manhattan, had to start turning people away almost immediately after the vaccine opened to eligible New Yorkers Thursday.

Speaking of his plans for this weekend, Mr Donnelly said he was “one of the lucky few who got a vaccine so it makes me feel a little bit safer.”

Jonathan Valdez, 36, a content creator and podcast host, said it was the first time a friend of his had told him he was glad to miss New York City Pride, citing concerns about monkeypox. “A lot of people are afraid that the numbers will go up a lot after this weekend,” Valdez said.

Jeremy Allen contributed reporting.

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