One day after the nation’s top-ranking infectious disease expert praised Miami-Dade for its response to a local Zika outbreak, Florida’s Surgeon General dispatched a letter to Mayor Carlos Gimenez demanding a comprehensive breakdown of spending, specific data on mosquito surveillance and a plan for combating the virus’ spread through winter and into next year.
Noting that Florida has budgeted $12.1 million to help Miami-Dade pay for the costs of responding to Zika — including aerial spraying in Wynwood and Miami Beach and an army of mosquito control workers, mostly contracted, to inspect and fumigate on the ground — State Surgeon General Celeste Philip asked that Miami-Dade deliver the following information by Nov. 4:
▪ A comprehensive breakdown of spending for all ground-based and aerial spraying, including dates and locations sprayed;
▪ Specific data on mosquito trap counts on a weekly or more frequent basis;
▪ Analysis or research on the effectiveness of local mosquito control efforts;
▪ A plan to control mosquitoes for the winter, spring and summer.
Miami-Dade officials confirmed they had received the letter and would comply with the state’s request, said Mike Hernandez, a spokesman for the mayor, in a written statement.
“Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control communicates with the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade daily,” Hernandez wrote. “Miami-Dade County appreciates its partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health and will work to compile the information.”
The demand, which appeared to be unexpected, was the latest salvo in an ongoing war of words between the state and county. The rift first emerged in September as a result of a Miami Herald lawsuit seeking the disclosure of locations where Miami-Dade traps had captured mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.
In response to the lawsuit, the county said it was keeping the information secret at the request of the Florida Department of Health. But the health department denied ever instructing local officials to keep the information confidential.
Philip’s latest letter to Gimenez was dated Wednesday, the same day nine more Zika cases were reported in Miami-Dade. And it was sent one day after the Miami-Dade mayor met with Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Miami.
Speaking at the CityLab conference hosted by The Atlantic magazine in downtown Miami on Tuesday, Frieden praised the mayors of Miami-Dade and Miami Beach, and local mosquito control efforts.
“It’s very tough to control Zika,” Frieden said, in a grim assessment that included a prediction that the virus would become endemic in Florida.
But, Frieden said, Miami-Dade mosquito control efforts were key to stopping the spread of Zika in a one-square-mile section of Wynwood first identified on July 29. State officials lifted the Zika zone from Wynwood on Sept. 19 after 45 consecutive days of no new cases.
“In Wynwood they did everything possible,” Frieden said, calling Miami-Dade mosquito control “one of the best in the country and one of the best in the world.”
While in Miami, Frieden said he met with Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, whom he also praised.
“They’re very focused on doing the right thing … and trying every approach,” he said.
Prior to Frieden’s meeting with the mayors, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an open letter to Frieden requesting that the CDC provide guidance to Miami on combating Zika.
In the letter, Scott urged Frieden to talk with local officials about aerial spraying in areas of Miami Beach and in a new one-square-mile zone in Miami’s Little River neighborhood where mosquitoes are spreading Zika.
“I ask that you specifically address how the county should determine when and where to use aerial spraying,” Scott wrote in the letter. “We quickly saw reductions of mosquitoes in Wynwood and in the first zone in Miami Beach following aerial spraying. However, we have not seen similar reductions in the extended Miami Beach zone where aerial spraying is not occurring.”
Gimenez, the Miami-Dade mayor, said last week that, for now, the county was not considering aerial spraying in the Little River area, something Scott also mentioned in his letter to Frieden.
“It is crucial that every decision is based on what will best protect our residents and visitors and CDC guidance will make sure the county is fully informed before ruling out potential mosquito abatement techniques,” he wrote.