Zika funds a day late, millions short

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Florida Gov. Rick Scott answers reporters’ questions at Wynwood Walls after announcing that Wynwood is Zika.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott answers reporters’ questions at Wynwood Walls after announcing that Wynwood is Zika. El Nuevo Herald

We guess we should be grateful. Last week, Congress approved $1.1 billion to fight the spread of Zika. This grand act came:

▪ Seven months after President Obama requested $1.9 billion for the initiative.

▪ Three months after Congress took stab at a bill that was larded with unacceptable funding cuts for Planned Parenthood. The stab wound was fatal. Senate Democrats blocked it.

▪ Two months after Wynwood became Ground Zero for the local transmission of the Zika virus. By then, locally transmitted cases of the disease that causes serious birth defects had been discovered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared Wynwood a no-go zone for pregnant women or those working on getting pregnant.

▪ One month after Miami Beach became the new Ground Zero.

▪ Three weeks after Senate Democrats blocked another Republican back-door assault on Planned Parenthood.

▪ And just in time for the mosquito population to drop off because fall is here.

Remember when Republican lawmakers were hammering the Obama administration to come through with funding to fight Ebola? A dreadful disease plaguing distant shores — and which indeed needed to be kept from coming to the United States?

Many of these same lawmakers were content to let Zika, a clear and present danger — emphasis on the present, as in here and now — spread unabated domestically. Their actions were derelict and dangerous.

Last week, Congress finally provided $1.1 billion to battle Zika, less than what Mr. Obama requested, but, mercifully, not by much. The funds are part of a larger, short-term funding bill to keep the government operating until Dec. 9.

About $935 million will boost efforts to curb the spread of Zika in the United States, funding prevention initiatives, response to the virus and the developed of treatment. There is no vaccine — yet.

Another $175 million will target efforts abroad.

Now that the money is there, it’s imperative that it be allocated to the most affected regions — and that means Florida and, specifically, South Florida. As Sen. Marco Rubio said in a press conference in Doral, “The battle’s not over.”

It’s also time for the state to get its act together. It seems to be trying, but is still playing catchup. State labs processing Zika tests have reduced the wait time for results, but it has to clear a backlog of up to 900 cases; and the heavy-handed directive to Miami-Dade County to not reveal where infected mosquitoes were trapped on Miami Beach made no sense whatsoever. The county went along when it should have outed the state from the start, instead of providing cover for such nonsense.

The Herald sued to get the locations released. But the state relented after County Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott that he planned to release the locations unless the state put its foot down. The governor agreed, and the community now knows where the infected mosquitoes were trapped.

Indeed, those carrying the Zika virus were found in back yards and near schools, All this after the state cut funds for mosquito control.

Great timing. Tell us again, Gov. Scott, what was the point?

Residents can’t be blamed for asking: Who’s in charge here? They deserve a credible answer.