MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Crews were up bright and early for another round of ground spraying in Miami Beach, Thursday morning.
The spraying came just hours after Florida Gov. Rick Scott left the nations capital, late Wednesday, to come back to Florida without a bill to fund the fight against Zika.
In Washington, D.C., Scott urged congress to pass a $1.1 billion Zika bill. “I’m up here because I want Congress to act soon. I want them to act today,” he said.
Wednesday, dozens of protesters shouted, chanted and even cursed at Miami Beach commissioners, during a meeting held to decide whether naled will continue to be used to fight the Zika virus.
Residents were seen outside with signs that read “No naled” and “If you’re gonna spray, we want a say.” During the crowded and noisy meeting, city leaders and some members of the public discussed the efforts against Zika since 8:30 a.m.
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.”
One resident believes naled is a “dangerous poison” that has “no place being applied wholesale to the community.”
“People need to be properly warned if they’re going to do things like that,” said one protester.
Alternatives to naled were proposed by Rick Nash, a man who stood in front of commissioners to make a case for his spray. “Our company has an alternative, all-natural bug juice, we call it, that’s environmentally-friendly,” said Nash. “It will not hurt animals, people, pets, plants. People can be in the spray with it.”
Tim Allen, another man who claims to have an alternative to the controversial pesticide, explained his method in sending away Zika mosquitoes. “Mosquitoes are actually the second largest pollinator next to bees, so we need them in our environment,” he said. “So, this product sends them away to get their meal from somewhere else. We don’t get bitten, this Zika virus doesn’t get spread.”
Doctors were seen at the protest and spoke to 7News about the aerial spraying. “Naled has the potential to be overtly toxic,” said Dr. Michael Hall, “not only to us humans but to the ecosystem. Our ecosystem is very important to our lives.”
City leaders said they would be open to alternatives, but only if research is done. “We want to listen to other people,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. “We want to hear from some more of the experts. We want to hear what they have to say.”
“We don’t want lawsuits,” said Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Gonzalez. “We want solutions. We want dialogues. We want research.”
Naled has been reportedly banned in Europe. However, a representative from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was conference called into the meeting and said they have not found evidence that it is a dangerous chemical. “In Florida alone, naled was applied over almost six million acres without appreciable incidents,” said the representative.
That conclusion, as well as a suggestion to consider using genetically modified mosquitoes, were met with booing from the public.
Protesters called for a two-week moratorium on the spray program aimed at tackling Zika, a proposal supported by Miami Beach Commissioner and Vice-Mayor Michael Grieco. “We do not want to have another spraying on Sunday,” he said.
The commission could have voted to file an injunction to stop naled spraying, but instead they agreed to push for more research into alternatives that kill mosquitoes and the threat they may be carrying. “All I ask is, well, would you listen to us, too, as we move forward in this dialogue? It’s mutual respect,” said Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.
But disappointed protesters said their patience is at an end. “If you’re not ready to tell the truth, we’re going to get out there with our signs, and we’re going to picket from Fifth Street to 19th Street daily to get our message to the tourists,” said demonstrator Judd Allison as he was met with cheers from the audience.
While in D.C., Scott also met with the Florida delegation in Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s office Wednesday morning. They said they are all on the same page with getting the bill passed, although lawmakers from around the country have created issues.
The governor discussed his meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Tuesday night. “We didn’t talk about exactly what would be on the bill,” said Scott. “What I talked about was the importance of funding. Here is what I think about it: This is about pregnant women and developing babies.”
“There are folks here, Republicans and Democrats, who have a greater interest in either scoring political points than passing the Zika legislation,” said Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson said she’s delighted to have met with Scott. “We’re so happy to be meeting with our governor,” she said. “We’re all on the same page. A clean bill. No riders, no poison pills.”
Some, however, questioned whether Florida is accurately reporting Zika cases. “I brought up with the governor the concern some in the press have had about underreporting or not specifically reporting,” said Ros-Lehtinen.
Consequently, state officials announced on Wednesday that they have changed the way Zika cases are reported. Those who contract the virus in Florida and live in other states will now be reflected in the daily report that is made public.
“We have included now, in our daily press release, a category for people who have been exposed to Zika in Florida but live in another state,” said Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip, M.D.
So far, a total of 71 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus have been discovered in Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scott said Florida has already spent more than $28 million of the state’s money on the Zika fight. The CDC sent seven lab technicians, but the governor said he still hasn’t received the 10,000 Zika prevention kits he has asked for. “The federal government has to figure out how to be a partner,” he said.
As the wait continues for the desperately needed funds, CDC Director Tom Frieden said time is running out. “If Congress doesn’t act, we will be dealing with the implication of their lack of action for decades to come,” he said.
Scott left the nation’s capital, late Wednesday to go back to Florida without a bill in place. When asked whether he is disappointed by the outcome, he replied, “Well, if you listen to what people said, everybody has said to me that they want to get something done.”
Scott is hoping that perhaps the bill will finally go to a vote sometime early next week. The CDC said they desperately need the funding before the end of the month.
Aerial spraying is still expected in Miami Beach on Sunday.
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:
- 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 N.W. 14th St. in Miami. For more information, call 305-324-2400.
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