Now that Congress has passed a bill to fund Zika response after more than seven months of delays — a period during which Miami-Dade County became the only place in the nation to experience a mosquito-borne outbreak of the virus — the next hurdle will be making sure the $1.1 billion is distributed quickly to the right places, a group of Republican congressmen from Miami said Friday.
“The battle’s not over,” Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday at a press conference in Doral, where he was joined by U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
“Now we need to make sure that this money is disbursed quickly and is spent where it belongs,” Rubio said, “and that is in the states and in the jurisdictions, in the cities and in the counties, in particular this county, that have spent money to battle Zika and have been impacted by Zika.”
“I’m sure someone in Alaska has a good idea for Zika funds,” said Curbelo, who called Miami-Dade “ground zero” for the virus. “We need to make sure these federal funds come here and help local governments, the state government to continue these efforts to contain the virus, to help treat people who have been infected.”
Rubio added that it wouldn’t be fair to make Florida wait 90 days or longer to receive federal funds for Zika due to what he called bureaucratic hurdles, such as regulatory requirements for reimbursement.
Sections of Miami and Miami Beach remain the only places in the nation identified as having active spread of Zika by mosquitoes — first on July 29 in a one-square-mile section of Wynwood, which has since been cleared of ongoing transmission. Then, on Aug. 19, state officials reported transmission in a 1.5-square mile area of Miami Beach, a zone that expanded on Sept. 16 to cover almost two-thirds of the city.
Gimenez said Friday that state health officials told him the last confirmed date of Zika transmission in the first Miami Beach area, between Eighth and 28th streets from the ocean to the bay, occurred on Sept. 12. If no more local infections are confirmed for 45 days after that date — Oct. 27 — a federal travel advisory for that area should be lifted, he said.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Health confirmed five more mosquito-borne infections in Miami-Dade, including one case linked to Miami Beach and four cases requiring investigation to determine where exposure to Zika occurred. The state did not say when any of the infections occurred.
A total of 948 people in Florida have contracted Zika this year, with 808 travel-related infections — including 97 pregnant women — and 139 local cases. One infection has been labeled “undetermined” after a health department investigation failed to identify the area of exposure.
As the number of mosquito-borne Zika infections in Florida has risen, South Florida governments have spent more for mosquito control and monitoring, educational campaigns and other efforts — the kind of activities the federal dollars are meant to fund.
With Zika outbreaks in two cities, Miami-Dade officials estimate the county will spend about $10 million for aerial spraying and other efforts this year.
“We’re very happy that now there’s funding available to reimburse Miami-Dade and the Miami-Dade County taxpayer for the extraordinary amount of funds that we are using to combat this disease,” Gimenez said.
We’re very happy that now there’s funding available to reimburse Miami-Dade.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez
Also Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new guidance for men and women living or visiting areas where Zika is spreading and who are planning to conceive. The federal agency also updated its guidance for preventing sexual transmission of Zika, and reported on the impacts of Zika infection in children younger than 18.
The agency recommends that men living in or visiting areas where Zika is spreading, and who plan to conceive with their partners, wait at least six months after onset of symptoms or their last possible exposure if they were asymptomatic.
CDC officials also reported findings from a study of 158 confirmed or probable pediatric cases of Zika. According to the agency, none of the children were reported to have meningitis, encephalitis or Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological complication that can lead to partial paralysis.
In general, the CDC said, the findings corroborate previously published reports suggesting that Zika is typically mild in children, as it is in adults.
Zika cases reported in Florida as of Sept. 30
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*
* Counties of pregnant women not disclosed
** Does not include local cases
Source: Florida Department of Health