Health Care

Zika on South Beach? Locals and tourists shrug it off

Open spaces on Lincoln Road were packed Saturday night with tourists and locals, despite the announcement of new locally transmitted Zika cases.
Open spaces on Lincoln Road were packed Saturday night with tourists and locals, despite the announcement of new locally transmitted Zika cases. aharris@miamiherald.com

What’s the difference between South Beach and Wynwood as both hotspots are under siege with Zika cases?

Crowds.

In stark contrast to the first weekend in Wynwood after local Zika cases were announced, South Beach was thriving Saturday night.

Businesses along Lincoln Road were packed with tourists and locals, and the street was clogged with people taking selfies and playing Pokemon Go. There was no stench of bug spray or flicker of citronella candles.

Miami Beach sanitation 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. Workers with pressure washers pushed stagnant water into gu

The more established tourism market of Miami Beach was bracing for the impact after Friday’s announcement of five new locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus, which can be linked to birth defects including microcephaly.

Read More — From A to Zika: We answer all your questions about the Zika virus

The mainland’s hip arts district, Wynwood, saw a nearly 70 percent decrease in business after it became the first area of local Zika transmission in the continental United States. The area in Miami Beach between 8th and 28th streets, from Biscayne Bay to the Atlantic Ocean, is the second.

This time around, the reaction is more subdued.

“I was more cautious in Wynwood,” said 26-year-old Tracey Robinson, playing Pokemon Go on Lincoln Road. “Now, I’m not as worried.”

The Miramar woman blames a media blitz over Wynwood for the drop in business.

“It was like the only thing on TV,” she said.

Tourists strolling South Beach were unaware or unconcerned with the virus’ intrusion into their vacation.

Taner Tokgoz, a pilot, was on a layover visit with his wife, Munira, from Turkey. The couple said the reports on the spread of Zika didn’t scare them.

“We have two kids already,” he said. “My wife doesn’t want to get pregnant again, so we’re not worried.”

Even those wary of the virus didn’t seem too concerned.

Dawn Bennett, 54, and her daughter are visiting Florida from the U.K. She said they were both wearing bug repellent. And whatever fears they had were soothed when they watched mosquito control workers spray earlier in the day.

Bennett said she’s not sure if the spread of Zika will make her stay away from Miami Beach in the future.

“I think we’ll just have to keep an eye on it,” she said.

Along Ocean Drive, it looked like a usual Saturday night in South Beach.

The sidewalk piled up with people weaving their way through cafe tables. Tourists aimed their camera phones at the Art Deco Hotels.. Beachgoers returned from the sand with speakers blaring music.

During a leisurely stroll by Lummus Park, 23-year-old Javier Castillo said he wasn't concerned about Zika. He's visiting from Costa Rica, where the virus is already present in mosquitoes.

"I think it's probably safer here than it is in Costa Rica," he said. "There are probably more tools to control it here than in other countries."

He was with Camila Trejos, 20, who said locals will have to take precautions every day, like wearing insect repellent.

"For us, it's normal," she said.

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip announce on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, that there are five known Zika cases in Miami Beach, in a 1.5-square-mile transmission zone in the city.

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