Wasserman Schultz calls for citizen vigilance, $1.9 billion to combat Zika
By Anthony Man
The threat to Florida from Zika is so serious that the government and individuals must join to combat the mosquito-born virus on multiple fronts, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, said Monday.
The state now has 113 cases of Zika, she said.
Wasserman Schultz said the government needs to approve the $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funding requested by President Barack Obama. And, she said, individuals need to act, too, by wearing mosquito repellent and scouring their backyards for water-filled spots that could serve as breeding grounds for the insects, among other things.
"The reason we need emergency supplemental funding is because it's a crisis," Wasserman Schultz said, adding that the problem would become worse "if we wait, if we dither, if we quarrel."
The money would pay for research and treatment of the virus, which can be transmitted by both mosquitoes and sexual contact.
The congresswoman joined Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober at his immaculately maintained lakeside backyard, where mosquito experts later showed the spots that he – and other Florida residents -- should correct. Bober said even those who think they don't have any issues outside "could well be surprised."
Among the problems spotted: a pool drain which is a dark source of standing water (fixable by a piece of screening placed under the grate), a small piece of conduit by an electrical fixture (remedied with a small piece of duct tape), a collection of pool toys (which could be stored in a shed) and an assortment of bromeliads that are part of the landscaping.
Remove the bromeliads, the experts advised. Their leaf pattern makes it impossible for any insecticide sprayed to get full coverage and the small dark pool of water in the center is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, said Anh Ton, division director of the Broward Public Works Department
Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, said there are no bromeliads in his yard. "My landlord tried to put them in and I pulled them out," he said.
The reason to be concerned, Doyle said, is the mosquitoes that carry the virus have a specific target. "They bite only humans," he said.
Obama requested the money for the anti-Zika effort more than 80 days ago, said Wasserman Schultz, and it's been bogged down in political gridlock. She has been pushing for the full funding – as have both of the state's U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio.
Wasserman Schultz said the potential threat from Zika is so great that it transcends – or at least should – normal political differences. Besides her role as a Broward/Miami-Dade county member of Congress, she is also chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
But on Monday, she praised Rubio – an opposition party politician for whom she's often had strong criticism – for his support of the full Zika effort. She was even somewhat positive about Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who flew to Washington last week to ask for Zika help, though she faulted him for not endorsing the full $1.9 billion request as Rubio has.