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Local Hero Runningbear Ramirez: young, gifted and Native American

An inspiration and an emerging next generation leader



Humility is not a trait routinely associated with being a rich 30-year-old gay guy. But Runningbear Ramirez defies stereotypes, exuding a kind of humility born of ancient spiritual strength and sense of responsibility for a culture and community too long ignored and too often violated – while also representing the tribe best known for the popular San Manuel Band of Mission Indians casinos.

Runningbear Ramirez in Milan at Fashion Week. (Photo courtesy Runningbear)

His name, Runningbear, “means that I’ve been able to incorporate animal instinct and courage for myself to take care of things that need to be taken care of.  Whether it be family or business, I’ve always had that personality to take charge,” Runningbear tells the Los Angeles Blade.

“The name was given to me as a child, but I decided to incorporate it into my normal day-to-day when I started to take on more responsibilities for the tribe,” he says. “That was when I actually changed my name to Runningbear so that way I’ll be able to live my life as who I was meant to be.”

Everywhere symbols and signs reflect the culture and deep history of his tribe. “The people of the San Manuel reservation are the indigenous people of the San Bernardino highlands, passes, valleys, and mountains who the Spaniards collectively called the Serrano, a term meaning highlander,” according to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians website.

“Our people are the Yuhaaviatam people. The arrowhead (on the tribe logo) is actually on our mountain, our historical land. Where our reservation is,” Runningbear says, “there is a granite arrowhead in the mountainside that’s over 1,400 feet tall. Our family believes that was a spiritual territory and that’s what that arrowhead represents on the side of the mountain….It’s very personal to us.”

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: Running Bear attends Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Runningbear uses fashion and body art to display his culture, as well, including a huge tattoo on his chest.

“This is just me being able to portray my artistic side a little bit differently,” he says with a slight chuckle. “It’s a chief on the front of my chest with a female warrior. It’s still not finished, yet. It hurt too much to finish at the time. It’s supposed to show a whole family of different people to represent the past and the present, as well as the future — to know that it took your ancestors to get where you are today.”

Runningbear’s childhood also helped get him to where he is today. A child of divorce who stayed with his non-Native mother as a boy, he experienced poverty and discrimination.

“We didn’t have much. Growing up with my mom, we were extremely poor. I can remember times when I’d have bugs crawling on me when I’m sleeping, because there was no window,” he says.

But in the 1990s, the no-frills 24-hour San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino was “an economic miracle for the tiny San Manuel tribe, which once scratched out an income raising apricots and lived in shacks and trailers on a dusty 648-acre reservation. Now, 40 landscaped houses dot the hillsides behind the casino’s walls, and security officers on bicycles patrol newly paved roads,” the New York Times reported in October 1998, noting the casino was part of California’s $1.4 billion Indian gambling industry.

“Growing up, it was a little hard because I had cousins that would discriminate against me because I didn’t grow up fully on the reservation,” Runningbear says. “I didn’t get some of the perks that they did. They grew up with money.”

But in 1998, after San Manuel and about 40 other tribes installed slot machines, intense opposition from a coalition of Nevada casinos, unions and anti-gambling church groups claimed they violated the 1988 Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and Gov. Pete Wilson threatened to shut down the casinos.

Runningbear’s father, Ken Ramirez, then the 38-year-old vice-chair of the San Manuel tribe, led the fight for Proposition 5, the Tribal-State Gaming Compacts Initiative on the Nov. 3, 1998 ballot.

Among the opposition was Christian fundamentalist lobbying group Traditional Values Coalition, whose anti-LGBTQ leader Rev. Lou Sheldon objected to California tribes asserting they are sovereign nations. “I hate Las Vegas but am thrilled that they’re helping us,” Sheldon told the Washington Post in September 1998.

The opposition got ugly. “Lil’ Petey Wilson,” OC Weekly reported, “told a group of reporters on Oct. 22 that the lawyer who advised Indian tribes to put Proposition 5 on the November ballot ‘ought to lose his scalp.’….We obtained a copy of da gov’s next speech, where he warned tribal leaders to keep firewater out of their casinos, quit spending big wampum on Prop. 5, and remove slot machines or face having their tepees burned and squaws raped.”

”This is our livelihood,” Ramirez told the New York Times, which noted that he “grew up on the reservation when it held only a few families, with water too fetid to drink.”

Ken Ramirez in a Nov. 2019 KTLA “visionary tribute” to him 

“Today, we are proud people. We’re not living in Third World conditions on our reservations,” Ramirez told the Washington Post. “It was our option to take it to a vote of the people. We have faith they’ll stand behind us.”

”Frankly, I think it’s an incredible con game,” Frank Schubert, leader of the ”No on 5” campaign, told the New York Times. ”We’ve had millions and millions in TV ads bombarding the state for months now about reservations getting electricity and being able to have linoleum on a dirt floor, when in fact it’s a handful of tribes spending a fortune to keep a special deal.”

The Prop 5 campaign cost over $68 million but won with 62.4% of voters.

Runningbear remembers the victory, “having dinner with governors and attending a lavish party at the Beverly Hills Hotel on the night of the vote. That was definitely the start of my own journey in influencing politics. My dad, to this day, is a big inspiration to me.”

An incredible irony of the Prop 5 fight is that Frank Schubert — who would manage the anti-gay marriage Prop 8 in 2008 — lost to Ken Ramirez, an openly gay man in a same-sex relationship. Now Runningbear is married, too, to Frank Romano. They’ve been together for six years.

“I didn’t have to really come out. They already knew about me,” Runningbear says. “My parents never made me choose a man or a woman. I had grown up my whole life seeing my father with another man and my mother with a man. I had a stepfather for my mom and a stepfather for my dad. They all came together and raised us together, which they’re still doing now. We still have very modern family views. We still hang out together. My family was always very open and appreciative of whatever, as long as I was happy.”

A few years after the Prop 5 fight, at 13, Runningbear started his long activism with and commitment to the tribe. But he never forgot walking between the two worlds of poverty and money.

“For me, going through that really opened up my eyes to say, between the haves and the have-nots, I’d much rather be able to help people than to just sit back and collect a check,” Runningbear says. “You have to be able to spread your wealth and your love. I think that growing up in that way, it really showed me a way to do that.”

Now, he says, “I’m able to walk in both worlds, to speak with people and understand certain issues based on my perspective within the tribe, within the reservation.” Even his cousins “appreciate that I am two-spirited,” which he defines as “being able to walk in both worlds of feminine and masculine.”

But it was serving on the Board of Indian Health Services at 23 when Runningbear had his “ah, ha” moment.

“I was able to see the plight of Native Americans — that really opened up my eyes,” he says. “Wanting to get more into philanthropy was seeing other reservations and how they were doing, outside of the gaming industries. That really got me to think about starting this five-year pilot program I did with Project Angel Food to help the diabetic community in Los Angeles counties, providing healthy meals for Native Americans.”

A friend introduced Runningbear to Project Angel Food a couple of years ago and he subsequently joined the board, inspired by a family member with HIV and a sister who last year recovered from cancer.

“I really wanted to learn more,” Runningbear says. “I felt that if I could philanthropically get to know the way that the disease runs its course and how it affects people, and if I could help in that way, that’s how I wanted to learn.”

Runningbear Ramirez (Photo by Daniel Sliwa for the Los Angeles Blade)

Project Angel Food clients, he learned, were getting healthier on meals that are based on their personal needs. “I thought that would be a perfect opportunity to utilize my wealth and my knowledge of being on Indian Health Services to bring a pilot program to the forefront for Native Americans in our area,” he says.

“I know that cancer is on the rise and being able to access healthy meals is a big problem on reservation. That’s why we’re trying to make sure that the research is done and recorded right, so we can hopefully take it bigger or national.”

Runningbear Ramirez seems to smile broadly over the phone, humbly grateful for the recognition as the Los Angeles Blade’s Local Hero honoree enabling him to share his story. “I feel like just because being gay and Native, we are a class of people who are sometimes looked down upon,” Runningbear says. “You can still do good for other people and yourself.”




Center for Black Equity awarded grant to combat monkeypox

The grant funds the continuing fight against monkeypox misinformation and lack of access to vaccines & resources within minority communities



Monkeypox JYNNEOS vaccine (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

WASHINGTON – The Center for Black Equity (CBE) has received a $50,000 grant supporting the center’s mission to raise awareness about monkeypox in Black and Latinx LGBTQ communities. The grant will also fund the center’s continuing fight against monkeypox misinformation and lack of access to vaccines and resources within these communities.

The grant, which is a part of a partnership with Gilead Pharmaceuticals, requires the CBE to demonstrate that it has the history and capacity to create and implement a community-wide initiative focusing on monkeypox education and boosting vaccination rates in the Black and Latinx LGBTQ communities.

The CBE is a coalition of international LGBTQ community members, Pride organizations, and community-based organizations that have conducted philanthropic and advocacy work in the LGBTQ community for more than 20 years.

Grant funds will be used in efforts to connect Black and Latinx LGBTQ persons with local community-based organizations that will provide accurate and up-to-date information on monkeypox, direct people to vaccination sites, and improve these communities’ access to monkeypox education and vaccines.

The official kickoff of the CBE’s monkeypox initiative started with a nationwide community leader talk.

“We brought together all of the Black Pride leaders from around the country to talk about monkeypox in their communities, what kind of resources they have, what has been the health department response and what do they need to do their work better,” CBE deputy director Kenya Hutton said.

The CBE will continue to host regular talks with community leaders to support the center’s goal of connecting the needs and voices of the Black and Latinx LGBTQ communities on a nationwide level.

“It’s going to get an idea of what it sounds like or what experiences are from community leaders on the ground level,” Hutton said.

Since monkeypox was officially labeled a public health emergency in the U.S., the LGBTQ community has been vocal about the misinformation surrounding the disease as well as limited resources for LGBTQ communities of color. Many have compared the public health response to monkeypox to the early response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

“In the beginning, the information seemed to focus on white gay men,” Hutton said. “And even though they keep saying the number of monkeypox cases are decreasing, the numbers are increasing in the Black and Latinx communities.”

The CBE has an interactive map on its website where you can input your zip code and find permanent and pop-up vaccination sites near you. You can also sign up for the CBE’s biweekly newsletter with up-to-date monkeypox information online.

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Why gay men and other groups are banned from donating sperm

Donor sperm is quarantined for six months and tested for HIV before being released onto cryobank websites for purchase



Los Angeles Blade graphic/Memphis Fertility Lab

By Amber Ferguson | WASHINGTON – Sperm banks already have an uphill battle trying to get men of color, especially Black men, to donate sperm. A Washington Post analysis found Black sperm donors represent less than 2 percent of all sperm donors at the country’s four largest cryobanks.

Only about 1 percent of applicants make it through a highly selective process for sperm donation, according to Jaime Shamonki, the chief medical officer at California Cryobank, the country’s largest. While the selection criteria are not specifically targeted at any ethnic group, they contribute to a shortage of Black sperm donors, said Cindy Duke, a Las Vegas reproductive endocrinologist and virologist.

The process requires a detailed physical and psychological exam, a three-generation family medical history, criminal background checks, genetic screening and semen analysis. Men need to be between the ages of 18 and 39 to donate, and many cryobanks require them to be at least 5-foot-7. Donors with higher education are favored.

Over the past two decades, cryobanks have stopped disqualifying donor applicants who are carriers of genetic diseases including Tay-Sachs disease, which is more prevalent among people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, and the sickle cell trait, which is most common among Black people. But the FDA ban on men who have sex with men has remained in place since 2005. The provision is based on data from the 1980s and early 1990s, at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

While donor sperm is quarantined for six months and tested for HIV before being released onto cryobank websites for purchase, the FDA said it had no immediate plans to end the ban.


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GLAAD examines impact of HIV, COVID, & MPV in new report

A new GLAAD report is out. Invisible People: A Retrospective Report On The Impacts of COVID & HIV In The United States



By Darian Aaron | NEW YORK – On October 6, in a TIME Magazine exclusive, GLAAD released “Invisible People,” a first-of-its-kind report detailing the disruption caused by COVID-19 in the lives of people living with HIV. The 23-page report combines a comprehensive analysis of peer-reviewed scientific literature, qualitative interviews of people living with HIV, affected communities, and community-based organizations (CBOs) serving these populations. 

With research conducted by global market research company Ipsos and completed before the U.S. emergence of the monkeypox virus (MPV), GLAAD has included an MPV addendum to the report that elevates the disproportionate impact of MPV, HIV, and COVID-19 among Black Americans. Through data and first-person narratives, the report highlights the source of medical mistrust in Black communities, examines the lack of access to consistent healthcare during the pandemic, and most recently, inadequate access to the JYNNEOS MPV vaccine, despite the disproportionate occurrence of MPV among Black gay and bisexual men. 

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis draws a parallel between the devastating outcomes for LGBTQ people of color across the three major health crises. 

“LGBTQ people and queer people of color are disproportionately affected in the pandemic, yet data collection didn’t begin for months to help guide responses and resources, and our voices were vastly underreported across the media,” Ellis says. “These are painful parallels to the early days of HIV/AIDS when GLAAD was formed to fight inaccuracy and invisibility.”

As of October 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 27,022 MPV cases across the United States. A steady decline in new cases—a national seven-day moving average of 63 cases as of October 12—is attributed to vaccinations and behavioral changes among gay and bisexual men. However, data from the CDC confirms that while Black and Latino gay and bisexual men represent the overwhelming majority of MPV cases, white and Latino men have received their first dose of the vaccine at a much higher rate. 

The inequity in vaccine distribution and the reality that unvaccinated people are 14 times more likely to acquire MPV has exacerbated racial healthcare disparities in Black communities that existed long before the current outbreak. 

Is history repeating itself?  

In a separate interview, pioneering HIV activist Phill Wilson, founder of The Black AIDS Institute, says the “parallels are scary” in the context of the U.S. response to the early HIV/AIDS crisis and the slow response to the threat of MPV among Black gay and bisexual men in 2022. 

“During the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, I used to quote my grandmother—probably your grandmother, too: “When white people get a cold, Black people get pneumonia,” Wilson says. 

“The parallels are scary—first, the denial, then the blaming, then the slow response and missed opportunities. And finally, the disproportionate impact on Black, other POC (people of color), and poor communities,” he adds. 

“All the earliest information about how the COVID-19 pathogen was transmitted said that Black, brown, and poor people would be disproportionately impacted. And yet, those in power did not develop strategies targeting those communities. The opposite happened.” 

A California resident, Wilson provides a first-person account of his vaccination experience in Van Nuys, a suburb of Los Angeles situated in the San Fernando Valley.  

“I showed up at the pop-up vaccination station at about 10:15 in the morning. They didn’t open until 11:00 am. There were already 100 people in line,” Wilson says. “They had 400 vaccines available that day. By the time I left at 3:00 pm, they had closed the line for the day. I counted less than five Black men, four or five Latino men, and maybe one Asian man getting vaccinated. Four hundred, presumably LGBTQ+ people, were vaccinated that day, and less than 3% were BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color).” 

To combat the inequity in the MPV vaccine rollout, the CDC has created a Vaccine Equity Pilot Program to reach populations most affected by MPV but less likely to be vaccinated. 

In the report, GLAAD also calls out the inherent homophobia that precipitated the naming of HIV as a “gay disease” in the early days of the epidemic. This stigmatizing language has also been echoed during the recent MPV outbreak because most cases are among gay and bisexual men. 

Ryan Lee, an Atlanta-based writer, was diagnosed with MPV in July and has since recovered. He says he understands why gay men are reluctant to bare the social responsibility of MPV. 

“The burden and shame that gay men have borne regarding our sexual health have created generational trauma and anxieties. And five months of monkeypox have already stoked the bigotry and judgment in those who love telling gay folks how sick and dirty we are,” Lee says. 

“So I understand the reluctance of queer folks to be closely associated with a new illness, but we must recognize monkeypox is currently a disease that disproportionately impacts gay men.”

According to reports published in August, the fear and anxiety experienced by many gay and bisexual men and the refusal of some phlebotomists to administer the MPV vaccine are reminiscent of a dark era in our nation’s history that many hoped never to repeat. 

“There is something spooky about sitting in a folding chair in 2022, surrounded by other gay men in folding chairs, waiting to be vaccinated by healthcare workers who wear personal protective equipment and immediately wipe down each vacated chair with disinfectant,” says Amanda Cary, manager for the gay men’s sexual health clinic at Whitman-Walker in D.C, in a story published in The Washington Post

“Invisible People” lays bare the outcome of slow to no inaction when three health crises converge and target an already marginalized group of people. Through this report, GLAAD continues to elevate the stories and voices of LGBTQ people living with HIV at greater risk for COVID and MPV acquisitions. 

“We have to learn from the lessons of each epidemic to be better prepared for the next,” says Andres Cantero Jr., a study participant. “People living with HIV, like all chronic conditions, should know that we can count on care that keeps us alive and helps prevent the spread of HIV.” 

“We just lost two years,” says Ellis. “We need folks to look up, wake up, and realize that we as a community and a country can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can deal with a major pandemic while not forgetting about our most marginalized folks.”

Read the complete GLAAD report  Invisible People: A Retrospective Report On The Impacts of COVID & HIV In The United States.


Photo credit: Lee Jones Photography 

Darian Aaron is the MPV project coordinator for GLAAD. He is also communications director of CNP (Counter Narrative Project), and editor-at-large of CNP’s digital publication The Reckoning.

His work can also be read across multiple platforms as a contributor for Q Digital. Follow him on Twitter @darianoutloud

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Newsom announces end of the COVID-19 State of Emergency

California’s pandemic response efforts have saved tens of thousands of lives, kept people out of the hospital and protected the economy



Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly gives Gov. Gavin Newsom COVID-19 booster shot (Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the COVID-19 State of Emergency will end on February 28, 2023, charting the path to phasing out one of the most effective and necessary tools that California has used to combat COVID-19.

This timeline gives the health care system needed flexibility to handle any potential surge that may occur after the holidays in January and February, in addition to providing state and local partners the time needed to prepare for this phaseout and set themselves up for success afterwards.

With hospitalizations and deaths dramatically reduced due to the state’s vaccination and public health efforts, California has the tools needed to continue fighting COVID-19 when the State of Emergency terminates at the end of February, including vaccines and boosters, testing, treatments and other mitigation measures like masking and indoor ventilation.

As the State of Emergency is phased out, the SMARTER Plan continues to guide California’s strategy to best protect people from COVID-19.

SMARTER Plan Progress Update

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been guided by the science and data – moving quickly and strategically to save lives. The State of Emergency was an effective and necessary tool that we utilized to protect our state, and we wouldn’t have gotten to this point without it,” said Newsom. “With the operational preparedness that we’ve built up and the measures that we’ll continue to employ moving forward, California is ready to phase out this tool.”
To maintain California’s COVID-19 laboratory testing and therapeutics treatment capacity, the Newsom Administration will be seeking two statutory changes immediately upon the Legislature’s return: 1) The continued ability of nurses to dispense COVID-19 therapeutics; and 2) The continued ability of laboratory workers to solely process COVID-19 tests.

“California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prepared us for whatever comes next. As we move into this next phase, the infrastructure and processes we’ve invested in and built up will provide us the tools to manage any ups and downs in the future,” said Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly. “While the threat of this virus is still real, our preparedness and collective work have helped turn this once crisis emergency into a manageable situation.”
Throughout the pandemic, Governor Newsom, the Legislature and state agencies have been guided by the science and data to best protect Californians and save lives – with a focus on those facing the greatest social and health inequities – remaining nimble to adapt mitigation efforts along the way as we learned more about COVID-19. The state’s efforts to support Californians resulted in:

  • Administration of 81 million vaccinations, distribution of a billion units of PPE throughout the state and processing of 186 million tests. 
  • Allocation of billions of dollars to support hospitals, community organizations, frontline workers, schools and more throughout the pandemic. 
  • The nation’s largest stimulus programs to support people hardest hit by the pandemic – $18.5 billion for direct payments to Californians, $8 billion for rent relief, $10 billion for small business grants and tax relief, $2.8 billion to help with overdue utility bills, and more.  

California’s pandemic response efforts have saved tens of thousands of lives, kept people out of the hospital and protected the economy:

  • California’s death rate is the lowest amongst large states. If California had Texas’ death rate, 27,000 more people would have died here. If California had Florida’s rate, that figure jumps to approximately 56,000 more deaths.
  • In only the first ten months of vaccines being available, a study showed that California’s efforts saved 20,000 lives, kept 73,000 people out of the hospital and prevented 1.5 million infections.  
  • California’s actions during the pandemic protected the economy and the state continues to lead the nation in creating jobs and new business starts:
    • ‘Lockdown’ states like California did better economically than ‘looser’ states like Florida, new COVID data shows,” with California’s economy having contracted less than such states – economic output shrank 3.5% on average for the U.S., compared with 2.8% for California.
    • Since February 2021, California has created 1,628,300 new jobs – over 16% of the nation’s jobs, by far more than any other state. By comparison, Texas created 1,133,200 jobs (11.3% of the nation’s) and Florida created 787,600 jobs (7.9% of the nation’s) in that same timeframe.
    • Since the beginning of 2019, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that over 569,000 businesses started in California, by far more than any other state.
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LA County Public Health expands Monkeypox vaccination eligibility

Eligible residents can go to a Public vaccinating site or visit to find other vaccinating sites near you



Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has expanded eligibility to the monkeypox vaccine to closely align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent expansion, which includes persons in select occupational groups whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses (such as monkeypox).

Monkeypox vaccine will be available to residents who self-attest to being in the following groups:

  • Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men or transgender people who have sex with men or other transgender people
  • Persons of any gender or sexual orientation who engage in commercial and/or transactional sex
  • Persons living with HIV, especially persons with uncontrolled or advanced HIV disease
  • Persons who had skin-to-skin or intimate contact with someone with suspected or confirmed monkeypox, including those who have not yet been confirmed by Public Health
  • (NEW) Sexual partners of people in any of the above groups
  • (NEW) People who anticipate being in any of the above groups

Monkeypox vaccine is also available for persons in select occupational groups whose may be exposed to orthopoxviruses including:

  • Research laboratory personnel working with orthopoxviruses
  • Clinical laboratory personnel performing diagnostic testing for orthopoxviruses
  • Designated public health response team members
  • Health care personnel who administer ACAM2000 (Smallpox [Vaccinia] Vaccine)
  • Designated health care workers who care for persons with suspected or confirmed orthopoxvirus infections, including clinicians and environmental services personnel

Note that the risk of monkeypox transmission remains very low for health care workers if appropriate personal protective equipment is worn and other infection control practices are followed.

Eligible residents can go to a Public vaccinating site or visit to find other vaccinating sites near you.

Residents do not need to show ID in order to get a vaccine at sites run by Public Health. However, because residents may need to show vaccination record and ID if you travel or visit certain venues, it is recommended that when getting a vaccine that residents provide the name that is on their ID.

Residents who met prior eligibility criteria can still get vaccinated (see below for prior criteria).

Gay or bisexual men or transgender people who:

  • Had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past 14 days
  • Had skin-to-skin or intimate contact with persons at venues or events in the past 14 days
  • Had a history of early syphilis or gonorrhea in the past 12 months
  • Are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • Had anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners in the past 21 days in a commercial sex venue or other venue.

Residents who have monkeypox symptoms or are currently under isolation for monkeypox, should not come to the vaccination clinics or walk-up sites. If residents think they have monkeypox, they should speak with a provider and get tested. If residents do not have a provider, residents can call the Public Health Call Center for more information on monkeypox, including general information, testing, treatment, and vaccines at (833) 540-0473 (open 7 days a week 8am – 8:30pm).

For more information, please visit:   

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Los Angeles County Supervisors approve sick leave for monkeypox

Both coronavirus and the monkeypox outbreak has disproportionately affected essential workers, who are predominantly Black and Latino



The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting room (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion Tuesday, sponsored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, which directs County attorneys to report back to the board in three weeks on how the County could implement a paid sick leave policy for people who contract monkeypox, or other new and emerging infectious diseases.

The Board also is urging California Governor Gavin Newsom to extend the state’s coronavirus supplemental paid sick leave by signing the AB-152 COVID-19 relief leave bill.

Supervisor Solis prior to the vote pointed out that both coronavirus pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak has disproportionately affected essential workers, who are predominantly Black and Latino.

Solis further noted that without a form of paid sick leave, are in most cases, unable to take the recommended five to 10 days to isolate for COVID-19 — much less the two to four weeks needed to isolate for the duration of a monkeypox diagnosis as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the County Dept. of Public Health .

During a monkeypox townhall hosted by the Blade in East Los Angeles last week, which was also attended by Supervisor Solis, Sherrill Brown, M.D, AltaMed’s Medical Director of Infection Prevention, in her presentation noted the need for economic relief.

In her practice treating primarily Latino monkeypox cases at AltaMed clinics in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, she told the townhall attendees she was hearing some of her patients were having difficulty with the required isolation protocols because of their economic needs.

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