Just after sunrise on Friday, the growl of sanitation equipment could be heard in the back alleys of South Beach as city workers ramped up efforts to eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds in the wake of news that Zika cases have been identified in the region’s tourism capital.
Public works crews that have now gone into overdrive to make sure public streets are clear of standing of water and private property owners are doing their part to keep mosquitoes away. Workers with pressure washers pushed stagnant water into gutters with 250-degree water to kill anything living in it. Sanitation trucks with vacuums sucked up water and debris. Larvicide pellets are being thrown into stormwater drains.
“We’re cleaning to make sure there’s no standing water or litter that could be a place for mosquitoes,” said Juan Rosario, the Beach’s superintendent of sanitation.
The cleanup crews moved block by block as Gov. Rick Scott announced a noon press conference at the Miami-Dade County Department of Health to talk about Zika preparedness.
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After the Miami Herald reported Thursday afternoon that Zika cases had been identified in Miami Beach, the governor, state health officials and Miami Beach City Hall offered varying messages regarding two new local cases.
Scott and state officials confirmed two new cases of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes in Miami-Dade on Thursday, but did not say where. Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales told commissioners two cases were linked to Miami Beach in a Thursday morning email. Late Thursday, Morales and Mayor Philip Levine said the health department have not confirmed cases in the Beach.
Regardless, officials trained by county mosquito experts are conducting citywide sweeps to locate potential havens for mosquitoes, including code compliance checks that are resulting in fines. Workers issued a citation Friday morning after spotting someone pushing water out the back of a business into the alley, where it pooled in a small indentation in the pavement.
If stagnant water can be spotted on private land from the the property line, code compliance can issue a fine of $1,000. Subsequent violations come with $2,000 fines.
With burgeoning concern over Zika’s presence in Miami Beach, a major economic engine for the region’s $24 billion tourism industry, City Hall officials are urging calm, touting the county’s “Drain and Cover” campaign and asking residents to take care of standing water on their properties.
Mosquitoes don’t need a lot of water to lay eggs. Larva can hatch in as little as a teaspoon of water, according to experts.
A few tips from the county’s mosquito control website:
▪ Drain any standing sprinkler or rain water that can collect in garbage cans, house gutters, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or other containers.
▪ Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls once or twice weekly.
▪ Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
▪ Maintain the water balance (pool chemistry) of swimming pools, and empty plastic swimming pools not in use.
▪ Check around faucets and air conditioner units, and repair leaks or puddles that remain for several days.
▪ Remove, drain or fill tree holes and stumps with mortar. Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days. Cut down weeds adjacent to home and in yards, and mow the lawn regularly.
▪ Flush water from bromeliads, popular ornamental plants that hold water between their leaves and provide a good place for mosquitoes to breed.
Miami Herald Staff Writer Daniel Chang contributed to this report.
To report standing water for more than 48 hours on Miami Beach, call the Public Works Department at 305.673.7625 or 305.604.CITY.