Business Monday

CEO Roundtable: CEOs express concern, but not panic, on Zika virus emergency

Brian Brackeen, founder and chief executive officer of Kairos.com, a facial recognition company. Kairos was selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 25 startups in the country in 2013.
Brian Brackeen, founder and chief executive officer of Kairos.com, a facial recognition company. Kairos was selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 25 startups in the country in 2013.

This week’s question: Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Miami-Dade County over the Zika virus. How serious a threat to public health is Zika? Should business leaders be concerned? Could this affect tourism?

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While I understand the real seriousness of Zika, I also think as business leaders these things are like the twice-a-year issue that you have to work around. Sars, Ebola, Zika, on and on. It becomes just part of how you operate.

Brian Brackeen, CEO, Kairos

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At this point, Zika is not an immediate, widespread threat to the region’s public health, since the reported cases have been brought by travelers returning from overseas. However, it is imperative that effective action be taken this spring — before the summer mosquito season. The faster this virus can be controlled and eradicated, the better for everyone.

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

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We should be concerned, as we have been during other similar outbreaks. But we shouldn’t panic. We have been able to address these health concerns in the past and can do so now as long as we ensure our community is educated on the risks and how to respond to any potential exposure.

Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, president, St. Thomas University

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Governor Scott was right in taking the proactive step of issuing a state of emergency. This allows authorities to put mosquito control programs in effect before Zika becomes a statewide concern. Only a handful of cases have been reported, all from traveling abroad, so there is still a low-level of risk. We need to keep it that way. The media also has a responsibility to report on the virus accurately, without sensationalizing the situation, to ensure the public does not panic.

Robert Hill, general manager, InterContinental Miami

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I think that whenever there is a sudden outbreak of a virus or disease, there is cause for concern. South Florida is the busiest portal between the U.S. and the Caribbean and Latin and South America, where the virus is originating, which means that we’re at a high risk of seeing more and more cases. People need to be aware and informed.

Miriam Lopez, president/chief lending officer, Marquis Bank

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While I think there is still much to be learned and understood about the Zika virus, I believe that we are safer here than in other parts of the world. That being said, we must remain guarded, pay attention to health advisories, and do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves and keep our community Zika-free. Certainly if we were hit with an outbreak, depending on the severity of it, it could have an impact on tourism as well as other industries.

Harve A. Mogul, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade

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Yes, it’s certainly something that travelers should take seriously. As a global company, we have many employees who travel around the world on a regular basis, so we recommend that anyone who may be concerned consult with their doctor before traveling. We are also providing information to employees that include details about the virus, with suggestions to avoid contraction. Additionally, the DHL corporate health/security department is providing more information for anyone who has booked travel to a Zika-infected country.

Mike Parra, CEO for DHL Express Americas

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I think that Zika virus is definitely going to affect tourism, especially among northerners who are wanting to conceive in the near future or are already pregnant.

Ania Rodriguez, CEO of Key Lime Interactive

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As with any virus transmitted by mosquitoes, we need to be vigilant in South Florida, but I don’t think it is a major public health concern to our community. There have been a very limited number of cases, and all have been brought here from abroad. I don’t see it affecting our tourism. I pray for pregnant women in Central and South America and the Caribbean to protect themselves from this awful virus.

Rachel Sapoznik, CEO & president, Sapoznik Insurance

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The Zika virus is definitely a threat. I’ve never heard of entire nations (such as El Salvador) recommending that their younger generations delay having children until this blows over… that’s a powerful statement, and I sincerely hope we can control the virus before things become even more dangerous. I know Caribbean and Central American countries are seeing negative effects to tourism, but I think Miami will remain resilient as long as public officials stay on top of the issue. The good news is that they’re working on solutions, including bumping up mosquito control.

Ginny Simon, founder, CEO, ginnybakes

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