Florida Gov. Rick Scott paid a surprise visit Thursday to Miami Beach’s Arthur Godfrey Road, near the center of the city’s recently expanded Zika zone, where he met with store managers and customers and announced an additional $25 million in state funding for vaccine research and development of new diagnostic testing.
Scott’s visit to Miami Beach, as the health department reported two more mosquito-borne infections in Miami-Dade, was brief and focused on the state’s Zika response — and the governor’s increasing criticism of the federal government’s inaction to date on emergency funding to combat the virus, which included a scathing editorial published by USA Today on Thursday.
“I’m still, I guess, shocked, disappointed that the federal government still has not become a good partner,” Scott said in Miami Beach. “Congress and the White House have not come together and passed a bill that the president will sign that will fund research and vaccination.”
The new funding is in addition to $36.2 million in state funds Scott has allocated to help pay for mosquito control, Zika testing and other resources to combat the virus, which is spreading in a 4.5-square-mile area of Miami Beach between Eighth and 63rd streets from the ocean to the bay.
“So today, on top of the $36 million we’ve already allocated to combat Zika, we’re going to allocate another $25 million to work on finding a vaccine and also to come up with any innovative testing that will help our pregnant women find out faster and accurately that hopefully they don’t have Zika.”
“Think about it,” Scott said, “ all this is to take care of our pregnant women and their developing children. … While I’m still hopeful the federal government will do their part, we can’t keep waiting for the federal government. I keep going up there. They keep telling me, both Republicans and Democrats, they’re going to do something — and then nothing happens, again and again.”
The additional two cases reported in Miami-Dade raise the statewide total of mosquito-borne infections in Florida to 102 people this year, including out-of-state residents. Health officials also reported five new travel-related cases Thursday, including two in Miami-Dade, one in Orange, one in Volusia and one involving a pregnant woman.
A total of 772 travel-related Zika infections have been reported in Florida this year, including 90 pregnant women, who are considered at greatest risk from the virus because it can cause severe birth defects and neurological disorders in newborns.
On Miami Beach Thursday, Scott visited three stores where he spoke with employees and customers about the recently expanded Zika zone and the state’s efforts. Last Friday, the state tripled the size of the Zika zone in Miami Beach. Scott expressed concern about Zika’s impact on tourism, but stressed that it’s a public health issue first.
“The biggest thing we have to do,” he said, “is take care of pregnant women and their babies. … I’m going to do everything I can to keep everybody healthy, and then we’ll continue everything we can to help these businesses continue. There’s a lot of jobs tied to tourism. So we’ve got to make sure we beat this.”
Michael S. Goldberg, chairman of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, said it was too early to measure the impact of Zika on local businesses. Goldberg said he had not heard of dramatic drops in business similar to what Wynwood business owners had reported.
“People are still doing business,” Goldberg said. “For me to say business is down 10 percent or 15 percent, it wouldn’t be fair because I don’t have the numbers to validate that. … This is still a vibrant place.”
Zika cases reported in Florida as of Sept. 22
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
. . .
. . .
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*
* Counties of pregnant women are not disclosed.
** Does not include local infections
Source: Florida Department of Health