Gov. Scott Visits Wynwood, Directs Health Officials to Make Free Zika Tests Available to Pregnant Women

The federal government is still pleading for federal funding to help in the fight against Zika

Florida Gov. Rick Scott directed state health officials Wednesday to make free Zika tests available to pregnant women statewide to determine whether they've been infected with the mosquito-borne virus.

Scott also said the state would provide additional lab services to handle the expected increase to ensure test results are processed quickly. The governor is visiting the Wynwood area on Thursday before meeting with officials and holding an afternoon press conference.

Meanwhile, after weather kept planes from launching on Wednesday, officials were able to take flight Thursday morning, spraying an area that has seen most of the Zika cases in South Florida.

The flight took off from Miami Executive Airport shortly after 6 a.m., arriving at the scene about five minutes later for a mission that was expected to take around 30 minutes to complete.

While officials in Florida continue to figure out a plan of attack against the Zika virus that seems to be expanding in both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, the federal government is still pleading for federal funding to help in the fight.

In a letter sent to several high profile members of the House and Senate, the secretary of Health and Human Services pleaded for Congress to gavel back into session to take up the issue of funding. The letter again reiterated the need for $1.9 billion in money that will help with treatment and prevention.

The letter has followed continued pleas for help from Florida officials including Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson.

Rubio, speaking with reporters Wednesday outside his office in Doral, criticized President Barack Obama for not releasing more funding to fight the disease while acknowledging his disappointment that the presidential candidate for the Republican party, Donald Trump, had yet to mention the disease or any plans to fight it while on the campaign trail.

It came one day after a 15th non-travel related case of the virus was discovered in Miami-Dade County. Officials from the Florida Department of Health say 12 of them appear to be from the Wynwood area, whole two were isloated incidents and another is under investigation.

In an unprecedented warning, federal health officials directed pregnant women to avoid a Zika-stricken part of Miami. Wednesday's announcement came as some doctors have complained they were being forced to ration test kits and turn away pregnant women who were requesting them.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado took a walk through the Wynwood neighborhood Wednesday and told NBC 6 he was upset that people are being told to stay away, especially since no mosquito has been found yet from the area carrying the disease.

“Sunday night, this place was packed and the investment that these people have done in Wynwood is in the billions,” Regalado said. “It’s a shame that the world is being told don't come to Wynwood. That is not the case.”

Some tourists in the area Wednesday were unfazed by the warning.

Marcy Schmidt, visiting the Wynwood Walls from Chicago with her husband, two daughters and one of their friends, and she had looked up Zika online to see what the symptoms were. 

"But it didn't seem like it was a big health risk," she said. "And we figured coming in the middle of the day the mosquitoes probably aren't out anyway. So we thought we'd risk it." 

Despite the recommendations to wear insect repellent, she was not. Neither were Chris Anderson, 24, and 25-year-old Kia Anderson, both of Norfolk, Virginia. They did not know about the Zika warning, said Kia Anderson, an accountant. 

But she said she wasn't worried.

By evening there was a noticeable decrease in people eating and shopping in the Wynwood area, with some businesses saying their sales are down up to 30 percent.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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