Florida Governor Lifts Restrictions on Zika Zone, but CDC says ‘Don’t Let Down Guard’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a press conference about the Zika virus as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden (L), Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip (R) look on in Doral, Florida, U.S. on August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo
Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a press conference about the Zika virus as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden (L), Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip (R) look on in Doral, Florida, U.S. on August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared Monday morning during a visit to Wynwood that the artsy Miami neighborhood is Zika-free — urging visitors to return to the struggling entertainment district even as federal health officials continued to advise that pregnant women and their partners consider postponing “nonessential travel” to all parts of Miami-Dade County.

“Everybody should be coming back here and enjoying themselves,” Scott said during a news conference at Wynwood Walls, where he was joined by area business owners, elected officials and representatives from the health department.

Scott’s visit to Miami came as the Florida Department of Health announced that no new local infections of Zika have been reported in the Wynwood area since early August — meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standards for suggesting that mosquito-borne transmission of the disease is no longer occurring.

In late July, the Wynwood neighborhood, known for its graffiti murals and art galleries, became the first place in the nation identified as having mosquito-borne spread of Zika, which poses the greatest risk to pregnant women and their developing fetuses because it is known to cause severe birth defects and neurological disorders.

The designation as as an active Zika zone, along with an unprecedented domestic travel advisory from the CDC warning pregnant women and their partners to avoid the area, dealt a significant blow to business in the tourist-dependent neighborhood just north of downtown Miami.

So the state’s announcement Monday came as good news to local entrepreneurs and politicians — even if no one from CDC was present at the governor’s press conference, and the agency continues to urge caution.

CDC Director Tom Frieden issued a written statement shortly after the governor’s press conference on Monday, announcing that the federal agency was adjusting its travel advisory and acknowledging the economic impacts that such a declaration can bring.

“Still, we encourage people not to let down their guard,” Frieden said in the statement. “We could see additional cases.”

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SOURCE: DAVID SMILEY AND DANIEL CHANG 
The Miami Herald