Florida Gov. Rick Scott is heading to Wynwood Monday amid expectations that the trendy Miami neighborhood will be declared Zika free.
Joined by the mayors of Miami and Miami-Dade County, Scott will hold a press conference at the San Paul Gallery Wynwood at 8:15 a.m. to discuss the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s expected lifting of a travel advisory warning pregnant women and their partners to stay away. The lifting of the “Zika zone” — which has carried financial consequences for the galleries, restaurants and bars in the artsy district since its creation in early August — is expected after 45 days have passed without the identification of a new, locally born case of Zika.
“We are relieved that there have not been any additional cases of locally transmitted Zika in Wynwood during the past 45 days and are hopeful that the CDC will soon remove its travel advisory for the area,” Albert Garcia, vice chairman of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, said in a statement Sunday. “Wynwood has emerged from this challenge stronger than ever. We encourage the public to rediscover our world-renowned street art, cultural, retail and unique dining experiences.”
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Entrepreneurs and politicians have circled Sept. 19 recently as the date when they hoped the federal government would lift the advisory, instated just days after Scott announced in July that at least two people had contracted Zika from mosquitoes carrying the virus in the neighborhood. Wynwood became the first community in the country where mosquitoes were believed to carry the virus, which often causes no symptoms but can cause birth defects if contracted by pregnant women.
The domestic travel advisory was also the first ever in the U.S., and helped label Wynwood as “ground zero” for Zika, damaging business in the tourist-dependent district as day-trippers and tourists avoided the area. Since then, the CDC has created a second zone in Miami Beach, expanded Friday to cover 4.5 square miles of the seaside city, a critical hub for South Florida’s tourist industry.
Controversial aerial spraying of insecticides will continue over a 1.5 square mile of South Beach, but the county is using only ground crews in the rest of the city. So far, the Florida Department of Health has publicly identified 93 locally contracted cases of Zika, including five new ones on Friday connected to Miami Beach, where the 45-day countdown has yet to begin.
Wynwood business owners, however, hope they’ve seen the last of the Zika cases tied to their neighborhood, which like Miami Beach is preparing for the busy tourist season and the crush of visitors that comes with Art Basel in December. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county took aggressive measures to kill mosquitoes in the neighborhood, and credited business owners in the area with taking mosquito prevention seriously.
“I think that has a lot to do with it and we want the same kind of results to happen on Miami Beach. We need the people and visitors of Miami Beach to be part of this battle against Zika,” he said Sunday. “I look forward to that travel advisory being lifted but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, whose city just agreed to write off a quarter-million in police and waste expenses for Wynwood to help the district spend the money on festivals and events, said now it’s time to help the neighborhood recover.
“At least in this area, the health emergency seems to be over,” he said. “Now we've got to get the city, county and state to help Wynwood come back from weeks of uncertainty and bad business.”