Florida Governor Rick Scott minced few words in a letter to President Barack Obama Wednesday, suggesting that without federal aid, Florida will experience a “disaster” as the Zika virus progresses through the state.
The White House responded to Scott (who has already visited D.C. in an attempt to mobilize Congress) through spokesman Josh Earnest, who said “we hope that Republicans in Congress will finally get the message” and approve the $1.9 billion Obama has declared necessary to fight the virus.
Florida is facing 162 cases of Zika, including 38 pregnant women. Currently, every case involves an individual infected while traveling outside of the U.S., but officials warn that as hurricane season and the concurrent increase in wet weather approach, increased mosquito activity will mean increased Zika risk.
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“There is no doubt that we fall further and further behind fighting the spread of this virus with every day that passes and we are not fully prepared,” Scott’s letter reads. “… We need federal action now to keep our citizens safe and healthy through what would no doubt be a disaster if this virus becomes mosquito-borne in our state.”
Florida health officials also announced Wednesday that a tourist had contacted dengue fever in Key West, which is alarming because the mosquitoes that serve as vectors for dengue can also transmit Zika (among other viruses).
Exactly how much of Florida’s coffers have gone to fight the virus remains unclear. “This is a national issue and [Congress] needs to make it a priority,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told the Associated Press, though she did say that Florida has spent “some” of its own money on the problem. Scott hasn’t specific whether he will continue to dip into state dollars to fight Zika; can ask the state’s legislature to approve emergency spending requests but has not yet done so.
Earnest threw in another jab at Congressional stalling in the White House’s response to Scott’s letter: “It is clear that Republicans outside of Washington recognize that there is more that should be done to support local efforts to fight Zika. And we hope that Republicans in Congress will finally get the message.”