Florida’s Governor Rick Scott stood beside local business owners earlier this week and declared triumph in Wynwood. The small neighborhood north of Miami had been the first place in the continental United States where mosquito-borne Zika was spread, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had told people to stay away.
To the great relief of local businesses, Scott said on Monday that “everybody should be coming back here and enjoying themselves,” as he stood in front of the type of artsy building mural Wynwood is known for.
Federal officials have spent the summer spraying and fumigating to try to rid the area of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries Zika, since the virus first appeared there in July. This week, Wynwood met the CDC’s requirement for being declared Zika free: no new cases reported for 45 days. But the CDC took a much more cautious tone than Scott did. Director Tom Frieden said Monday while there have been great strides made in spraying and killing Zika-carrying mosquitoes, “we encourage people not to let down their guard.” “We could see additional cases,” he warned.
That is not what the Miami area wanted to hear.
After health officials found Zika in Wynwood, sales in the area slumped 50 percent . Business owners pressured Scott to do something about the trendy arts neighborhood’s new stigma. They complained that maps with an giant box that labeled much of Wynwood a Zika “hot zone” were over the top. Locals griped that the media had overhyped the seriousness of Zika. Then in August, local transmission of Zika was reported in Miami Beach. Zika had spread to the white-sand beaches, restaurants, and clubs of one of southern Florida’s most popular tourist spots. In August, airfare prices to Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport fell 17 percent. The damage had been done. Half of Americans feared traveling to areas with Zika, which included Miami.