Miami Beach, last of Miami-Dade’s Zika zones, lifted

2009 shot of Ocean Drive (Credit: chensiyuan), a mosquito
2009 shot of Ocean Drive (Credit: chensiyuan), a mosquito

Miami Beach officials, hoteliers and restaurateurs breathed a sigh of relief on Friday after Florida Gov. Rick Scott officially ended the last local Zika transmission zone in Miami-Dade County.  

Speaking at the Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive, Scott said there had been no local transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitos in a transmission zone that stretches from Eighth Street to 28th Street over the past 45 days. The 1.5 square-mile area covers most of South Beach and was the last of four active Zika zones in Miami-Dade County. The first active local zone was identified in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in July.   

Last month Scott declared a second three-mile area in Miami Beach, between 28th Street and 63rd Street, Zika- free. A third one-square mile area in Little River was also declared Zika-free early this month.  

While Scott said he welcomed the news of no new mosquito-borne transmissions, he said the federal government should have done more to help South Florida combat Zika. Scott said the state had only received $7 million out of $25 million allocated to fight Zika transmission, and he said hopefully by next summer federal authorities would have a vaccine and offer a more vigorous response if local mosquito-borne transmissions resume.  

Dr. Celeste Philip, Florida’s state surgeon general, cautioned however that while locally mosquito-born transmission of the Zika virus has subsided, travel-borne cases continue, as well as cases transmitted through sexual activity. She cautioned men in particular to abstain from unprotected sex with a partner for six months if trying to conceive. A travel warning for Miami-Dade County remains in place for pregnant women and women who might become pregnant.   

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Philip also said officials had expected mosquito-borne transmission of Zika to subside with cooler weather and she said testing kits are available from local health officials for women who want to be tested for the virus. She also advised residents and visitors to use mosquito repellent and drain any standing water.   

The initial announcement that mosquitos in Miami were transmitting Zika sparked a flurry of hotel cancellations in Miami Beach, and restaurant owners in Wynwood, a popular nightlife area, complained that their businesses lost millions of dollars after the area was designated as a transmission zone.  

On Friday, hotel and tourism officials welcomed the lifting of the transmission zone. William Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, said close cooperation between state and local officials had worked to eradicate the problem for the time being. Jonathon Plutzik, the owner of the Betsy Hotel, told The Real Deal that he and his staff had made a point of being “very transparent sharing CDC statements with our guests and prospective guests.”   

“I’m pleased we’ve gotten to the end of that process and it will bring relief not only to people who visit here but people who live here,” Plutzik said. “Indications are so far that it’s going to be a good winter here on Miami Beach.”