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Gov. Rick Scott Again Calls For More Federal Help With Zika

Gov. Rick Scott presides over a Duval County Zika roundtable with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in June.
Ryan Benk
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Updated 11:10 a.m. 8/9

On a conference call with Florida lawmakers Friday, Governor Rick Scott once again called on Congress to pass $2 billion in emergency Zika money.

But the call was hours after  Politico reported on mosquito-control cuts Scott has made in the past.

More than 1,800 people had caught Zika in the continental U.S. as of Thursday, a number that had risen with each update.

Scott said the state will spend what’s necessary to keep residents and tourists safe, but Florida needs more federal help, as he told the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday during his tour of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, where the first locally-acquired cases were reported. There are now 15 people confirmed to have contracted the virus through local mosquitos.

“I asked for more Zika protection kits. I asked for 10,000 Zika protection kits. I asked for ... whatever they can do to support our efforts with regard to mosquito control,” he said.

Testing kits have been essential in the fight against the disease. As Duval County Health Department Director Kelli Wells told the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday, 80 percent of people who have the virus don’t show any symptoms.

“We’ve now found a few folks who are positive with Zika who didn’t have symptoms as a result of the contact investigation, so that is a real concern and one that we’ll be talking through a bit in our taskforce meetings,” she said.

Scott is chiding Congress for not passing a $1.9 billion emergency Zika funding bill, but that measure contained “poison pill” provisions for Democrats, like cutting Planned Parenthood Puerto Rico funding and lifting a ban on Confederate flags in cemeteries.

Scott accuses Democrats of playing politics with mosquito-control funding, but as Politico reported Friday, he and lawmakers slashedfunding from $2.16 million in 2010 to $1.2 million in 2011. Scott also vetoed funding for a mosquito research lab.

He did however, increase funding in 2013 to $2.6 million, leaving the year-to-year average of mosquito control funds relatively flat over his tenure.

The CDC is warning it’s running out of extra money to support local efforts, and officials are calling for the creation of a permanent health emergency fund they say will help ensure funding isn’t held hostage by politics.

Florida Congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans, signed on to a letter this week calling for the CDC to re-examine its formula for doling out $16 million in new Zika funding. The Sunshine State, ground zero for the first locally-acquired cases and the state with the most cases overall, will receive just less than 5 percent of that funding package or roughly $720,000.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) has also called on Congress to return from summer recess to negotiate the passage of a new funding package and Scott told lawmakers the state is slowly shrinking the one-mile radius in Miami where the first local infections were reported.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated with Gov. Rick Scott's total mosquito funding since 2011.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Ryan Benk is originally from Miami, Florida and came to Tallahassee to attend Florida State University. He worked on Miami Dade College’s Arts and Literature Magazine- Miamibiance Magazine and has published poetry and a short film called “ The Writer.” He’s currently working as the Newsroom’s Researcher while finishing his Creative Writing Bachelor’s Degree at Florida State University. When he’s not tracking down news, Ryan likes watching films, writing fiction and poetry, and exploring Florida.