This is a bit of a stretch, we admit. But you’ll see where we’re going.
On Friday, alarmed Miami Beach residents scrambled for cover following police reports that there were two men on the roof of a building, armed with a shotgun. Police cordoned off the area in South Beach, searched the building and ended up with four men in custody after finding them in an apartment with an assault rifle and ammo.
Let’s recap: There was a public threat, the public was alerted and protected and police went right to where the threat came from. This was a smart, efficient and life-saving response in disaster management.
Which brings us to Zika.
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The mosquito-borne disease remains a public threat, particularly in parts of Miami Beach. Yet, Miami-Dade County is keeping the public in the dark, denying residents and visitors public information that will help all make better-informed decisions on how to fight it. The Miami Herald, long a leader in the push to keep public information accessible, rightly filed suit last week to force the county to turn over reports pinpointing where infected mosquitoes were found.
Monday, Gov. Rick Scott declared Miami-Dade County’s initial Zika hotspot, Wynwood, Zika-free. No new local infections have been reported since early August. And while the governor beseeched visitors to return to the fun zone — and spend money — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a more measured tone. It advised pregnant women and their partners to avoid nonessential travel to Miami-Dade entirely.
So, no, Zika is not done with us quite yet.
Now the focus, and fears, turns to Miami Beach. Friday, Gov. Scott announced the area of active transmission in that tourist-beholden city had expanded to about 4.5 square miles, from Eighth to 63rd streets, where four new non-travel related Zika cases were identified.
But instead of transparently giving people the information they need to make the best decisions as to where to go and to judge for themselves if aerial spraying is well-targeted or overdone, Miami-Dade County won’t release the locations where infected mosquitoes were trapped.
In other words, there’s a public threat, agents of government know where it is, but in this case, residents can’t take the best measures to protect themselves or determine if eradication efforts on their behalf make sense. The pesticide naled remains controversial as to its effects beyond eradicating mosquitoes. Though banned in Puerto Rico and in Europe, the Environmental Protection Agency says that it poses few risks to people in small doses. Not everyone’s convinced.
Four traps out of 19 that the state’s agriculture department placed around South Beach contained infected mosquitoes. We know that disease-carrying mosquitoes were found at the Botanical Garden.
But the county won’t reveal — for no good reason — the other locations.
A director with the county’s public works department, which has the reports from the state, said that the information “shall be made public only when necessary to public health.”
That’s not a rational explanation. It’s utter nonsense.
This is an issue of public health right here, right now. The county is carrying out a misguided and dangerous public disservice, one worth going to court to overturn. It never should have reached this point. Miami-Dade County should release those reports immediately.