WASHINGTON – Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been meeting with federal leaders in Washington, D.C., on the importance of putting partisanship aside and treating the Zika virus threat like a hurricane.
Scott has met with several congressional members to ask that they quickly hold a field hearing on Zika preparedness in Miami.
Scott also met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Thursday morning to discuss various requests state agencies and leaders from Florida have for the federal government to ensure Florida is prepared for the possible spread of Zika.
The Florida Department of Health is requesting 5,000 Zika preparedness kits to ensure Florida residents and visitors have access to items that will reduce the risk of getting Zika in the event it becomes mosquito-borne in Florida, Scott said.
They also requested additional resources for mosquito control districts for staffing to enhance mosquito surveillance, mosquito abatement, increased training for mosquito control technicians and laboratory capacity.
“We also need a plan from FEMA on how federal resources will be allocated to states in the event an emergency is declared if the virus becomes mosquito-borne in America,” Scott said.
The Obama administration is looking to spend more than $1 billion to combat the Zika virus, however, Congress still has not approved the spending.
Florida is leading the nation in travel-related cases of Zika with 112 cases. The governor's concerns grow as the state prepares to head into the summer months and faces more mosquitoes.
“I have stayed in constant communication with our state agencies and local county mosquito control districts who are working each day to ensure our state is prepared,” Scott said. “These agencies will also be on the front lines if the virus becomes mosquito-borne in our state. It is clear from listening to them that having additional federal funding available is needed.”
The 2016 Olympics will take place in Brazil, so concerns are also growing for people planning to travel to the South American country, where the virus is spreading rapidly.
"The Zika virus is raging. It is certainly raging in Puerto Rico. It is expanding greatly in this country, and the state with the most infected cases is my state of Florida. I have been on this floor many times asking for the president's request of $1.9 billion to attack the Zika virus," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also said he supports the funding.
"I care a lot about the Zika issue. I'm disturbed that members of my own party are standing in the way of fully funding a response to what's an emerging public health crisis," said Rubio.
"Basic questions to the administration remain unanswered, such as what is needed right now over the next five months to fight Zika," said U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville. "A good start would be to immediately apply $590 million in existing unused Ebola and other funding to immediately address Zika needs."
“While many in Congress have offered various alternatives and plans, the federal government must immediately do the right thing and come together on a solution to keep our families safe -- that has to be the No. 1 priority,” Scott said. “In Florida, we know that we have to prepare for a hurricane before a storm makes landfall. Battling Zika is no different. If we don’t prepare now, our families and visitors will be at risk if this virus becomes mosquito-borne in America.”