Florida lawmakers fight for Zika funding in DC; Miami Beach commissioners hold meeting

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida Governor Rick Scott headed to the nation’s capital, Tuesday, to seek funding to fight the Zika virus.

The trip comes as Congress continues to work on a bill that would keep the government running and avoid a shutdown. That bill would include $1.1 billion in funding for Zika prevention, research and testing in the United States.

While it is unclear when lawmakers will vote on funding, it is crucial that they vote before the end of the month, when the last of funding will run out.

Scott said the time for politics is over. “The bottom line for me is the time for politics is over. I’m up here, my goal is, this week, something will happen with regard to Zika funding,” he said. “We’re just the tip of the spear. This is an international issue. This not just a Florida issue, so I assume people are starting to understand this is a national issue.”

Scott said he wanted to remind lawmakers of Zika’s impacts. “I met a young man who has microcephaly,” Scott said. “I met with him and his mom. They told me the challenges of growing up with microcephaly.”

The governor also invited lawmakers to visit Miami to see Zika’s impact. Scott said he doesn’t want to leave the Capitol until the Zika bill is passed.

President Barack Obama said the funding would address short-term and long-term needs.

“Make sure that we are able to adequately fund our efforts to not only deal with the Zika outbreaks but also come up with diagnostic tools and vaccines,” Obama said.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control said last week they are essentially out of money to fight the virus. Dr. Beth Bell, Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, part of the CDC, seconded that.

“Funding for Zika research, for prevention, and for control efforts, including mosquito surveillance and control, is essentially all spent,” Bell said.

The bill has been held up as Planned Parenthood funding was dragged into the bill. Democrats accused Republicans of using the Zika bill to try to withhold funding for Planned Parenthood.

“It is not the time for political games,” Florida Senator Bill Nelson said. “Those games should be over, and we should do it … Zika doesn’t have anything to do with the confederate flag, and Zika doesn’t have anything to do with defunding Planned Parenthood.”

Obama is hopeful the deal passes by the end of the month. “My hope is that by the time Congress adjourns before the election, that we will have an agreement to fund the government, and our Zika funding will be taken care of,” said Obama.

Nelson was elated to hear the news that a bill to fund Zika is in the works. “This wonderful news that I have heard, that a deal is being struck, is welcome, welcome news to this senator.”

U.S. Representative Carlos Curbelo from Florida and U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson from Florida, both vocal advocates of anti-Zika funding, met with officials in D.C.

“The governor is coming. We are glad to have him here,” said Curbelo. “We are glad to have him be part of this effort because, certainly, he can meet with members of the Florida delegation and leadership. We just like to ask him to be very focused.”

“All of us have been working through our districts. Work. Period,” said Wilson. “We have passed flyers, knocked on doors, tried to educate our communities and we have been calling on Congress to pass a clean Zika virus bill. No partisan bills, no riders, just a clean bill.”

Senator Marco Rubio spoke on the floor of congress, urging Congress to pass the Zika bill.

Scott will remain in Washington D.C., he said, until a bill is passed.

Commissioners met at Miami Beach City Hall, Wednesday morning, to discuss how to further their battle against Zika carrying mosquitoes.

Protesters were seen outside city hall with signs against Naled being used in aerial spraying. One man, Rick Nash, proposed an alternative to Naled in front of city commissioners.

“We have many, many opportunities and alternatives to what the traditional remedies are,” said Nash. “Our company has an alternative, all-natural bug juice, we call it, that’s environmentally-friendly. It will not hurt animals, people, pets, plants. People can be in the spray with it.”

A protester, Paul Markowitz, told 7News he believes spraying is being done to protect a crucial part of Florida’s economy. “They’re trying to protect the tourism,” he said. “Which I think is contrary to that. It’s scaring people. It’s unhealthy. If you look on Facebook, people have fish dying … Bees all over dying.”

A citizens’ forum was also held in front of Miami Beach city leaders in order to provide a way for residents to voice their concerns directly.

While local lawmakers urge Congress to pass additional funding to fight the Zika virus, the fight against the mosquito-borne illness continues in South Florida.

On Monday, Broward County took to the skies to spray pesticide to control the virus.

In Miami-Dade, efforts were on the ground.

Neither county used the controversial chemical Naled, which sparked multiple protests last week in Miami Beach.

Miami Beach will continue offering free Zika testing at the Miami Beach Police Department. You can get it done Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. All that’s required is proof of residency.

One man who got tested said he would know the results in 10 days.

“Nothing, take a sample of pee-pee, you know, and they will let me know in 10 days. But there’s a lot of mosquitoes in this area,” Jorge Garrido said.

So far, a total of 70 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus have been discovered in Florida, according to the CDC.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the latest Zika zone, a 1.5 square mile area in Miami Beach, on Aug. 19. The first U.S. hot zone for locally transmitted cases of Zika was identified in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, in late July.

The mosquito-borne illness is especially dangerous for pregnant women and has been linked to serious birth defects. The CDC has issued a travel advisory for pregnant women to avoid the Zika hot Zones in Miami-Dade County.

If a mosquito carrying Zika does bite, it can take up to two weeks to cause symptoms like:

  • fever
  • headache
  • skin rash
  • joint pain
  • conjunctivitis, which causes red, irritated eyes

The State Surgeon General has activated a 24-hour Zika hotline in Florida to answer questions and concerns. That number is 855-622-6735.

Pregnant women can receive a free test at the Health District Center, located at 1350 NW 14th St. in Miami. For more information, call (305)-324-2400.

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