- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been caught in Miami Beach — a first for the continental U.S., Florida officials said Thursday.

The discovery, while expected, highlights growing frustration with Congress‘ impasse over funding to combat the disease.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it found the virus in three samples from the tourist hub — one of two neighborhoods around Miami where officials believe Zika is spreading.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his state had tested more than 42,000 mosquitoes before the positive results were recorded. He promised to ramp up mosquito control in the area, including spraying by helicopter, after Hurricane Hermine passes by the area.

“Together we can contain and eliminate all cases of Zika,” Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said. “We need Congress to do its part to provide the necessary emergency resources to properly combat the spread of this virus.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell implored lawmakers to authorize money for the Zika fight when they return to Capitol Hill next week, saying funds she swiped from other accounts will be spent or obligated within weeks, and that she doesn’t know where to turn next.


SEE ALSO: All U.S. blood donations should be tested for Zika: FDA


“We have taken from all we can,” she said. “There hasn’t been money to do this. [Zika] is an emergency, an unplanned-for situation.”

The new fiscal year is set to begin Oct. 1, but Mrs. Burwell said she cannot fund the fight under the type of short-term bill, known as a continuing resolution, that Congress is poised to pass in the coming weeks to avoid a federal shutdown.

Such a bill, she said, would extend fiscal 2016 spending plans, which didn’t include Zika money to begin with. She said it would be difficult for her to pull off a spending transfer under a framework that might be as short as three months.

“We need a supplemental,” she said. “What we need is a bipartisan agreement.”

Mrs. Burwell refused to endorse a $1.1 billion agreement offered by GOP leaders in Congress, saying there is still room for a new deal.

Senate Democrats twice voted to filibuster the GOP’s offer before Capitol Hill left for a seven-week recess, saying it shortchanged the effort and had too many strings attached. The package tapped federal accounts for Ebola and Obamacare to offset $750 million of the cost, angering Democrats who wanted to swiftly pass President Obama’s request in February to borrow $1.9 billion for the fight.

Democrats asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, to revert to a $1.1 billion package that isn’t paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget. Instead, Mr. McConnell scheduled another vote to advance the existing deal for Tuesday, when lawmakers return.

Amid the deadlock, some Florida Republicans are growing impatient. Mosquito-borne cases have cropped up in various parts of the state, though officials believe the disease is spreading to multiple persons in the Miami area.

“As one of the first Republicans in Congress to support President Obama’s call for $1.9 billion in emergency funding, I was enormously disappointed by congressional inaction in July,” Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, said Thursday in a letter to congressional leaders. “The time to address this national health crisis is long overdue. The situation in Florida worsens each week, and now looming rainfall from tropical storms threaten to create a fertile breeding ground for the mosquitoes that carry the virus.”

The Florida Department of Health said Thursday its tally of locally acquired cases has risen to 49, with another case out of Miami Beach and one out of Wynwood, the artsy district where transmission was first spotted.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of travel-related Zika cases on the U.S. mainland has grown to 2,722.

Puerto Rico remains swamped by the virus, where mosquitoes have infected more than 14,000.

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