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‘Zika Zone’ Was Lifted, But Business in Florida is Far from Usual

11 Oct, 2016

By: Michael Popke

The so-called “Zika zone” in the Wynwood Arts District north of downtown Miami may have been lifted by Florida Governor Rick Scott, but that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal in the Sunshine State. Far from it, in fact.

According to a report in the Miami Herald, the mayors of Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach on Sunday accused the Florida Department of Health of lying after the state agency said last week that it never told local officials to hide the locations in Miami Beach where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were captured.

Florida’s health department strongly denied instructing local officials to keep the information confidential — and said the decision was entirely up to Miami-Dade — after the Miami Herald reported on Friday that a county attorney said the state agency had ordered them to keep it a secret.

The statement was made during a court hearing for the Miami Herald’s lawsuit against Miami-Dade seeking the locations of traps in Miami Beach where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were captured this month. The suit seeks disclosure of the locations on grounds that the information would help the public make decisions about precautions to take if they live or work nearby, and also inform the community debate on the use of the controversial insecticide called naled.

In the meantime, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still cautions pregnant women and their partners to “consider postponing” non-essential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County — including Wynwood — and has not ruled out the possibility of additional cases of Zika in the area.

The specter of the virus has at least temporarily damaged the state’s tourism economy, according to an article in Travel Weekly. Nearly 15 percent fewer Americans are planning to travel to Florida during the fall and winter after Zika virus was found to be locally transmitted in the state, according to travel insurance company Allianz Global Assistance. (It will be interesting to see whether this impacts the spring break business as well.)

Florida has allocated more than $36 million to combat the mosquito-borne virus, and no one seems to know quite yet what kind of hit Florida’s $82 billion tourism industry will take before the Zika scare is over. But South Florida’s economy has already lost its buzz, with some businesses closing their doors for good.

In the wake of months of stalling on federal funding to respond to the disease that has already infected 20,000 people in the continental United States, U.S. Sen. (and former Republican presidential candidate) Marco Rubio (Fla.) recently introduced the “Small Business Relief from Disease-Induced Economic Hardship Act of 2016” in Congress. The amendment to the Small Business Act would provide emergency relief for small businesses affected by Zika.

As reported on The American Genius website for entrepreneurs, the bill “would empower the Small Business Administration to give low-interest, emergency loans to businesses who’ve lost revenue after the CDC travel advisories.”

We presume some sports and recreation organizations would be on the short list of businesses lining up for financial assistance.

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