- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2016

Federal and state officials said Thursday that aerial spraying “killed a lot of mosquitoes” that might be carrying the Zika virus across Miami, as President Obama and his Democratic allies prodded Republicans to return from a summer recess and cut a deal over federal funding to combat the disease.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said the number of insect-derived infections in the artsy Wynwood neighborhood is holding steady at 15.

The Florida Department of Health ruled out transmission in a 10-block section of the square mile it identified as most at risk, according to the governor, who said locals shouldn’t be afraid to frequent cafes and other businesses in the neighborhood as long as they protect themselves from mosquito bites.

At the same time, Mr. Scott implored Congress to free up more money, saying Florida had posted $26 million and could use federal support.

“We’re going to spend the money that we need to, to do the right things,” Mr. Scott said.

Until last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was able to link more than 1,650 Zika cases in the states and the District of Columbia to people who had returned from countries where the virus was circulating, plus one case of accidental laboratory infection, although mosquitoes have infected more than 5,000 people in Puerto Rico.

The discovery of locally acquired cases in Florida — the first in the continental U.S. — is reinvigorating a partisan fight over federal funding to stem the disease at home and abroad, though Congress is trading barbs from afar during a seven-week break from Capitol Hill.

Mr. Obama paused from a press conference on the Islamic State to address America’s war on mosquitoes, saying money to beat back transmission and develop a vaccine is “rapidly running out.”

The president requested nearly $2 billion in February to deal with Zika but didn’t find money elsewhere in the budget to offset the cost, angering Republicans who said there was money left over from the fight against Ebola in West Africa.

“Not only did the Republican-led Congress not pass our request, they worked to cut it,” Mr. Obama said, noting that lawmakers left Capitol Hill without reaching a deal.

Dozens of Senate Democrats urged leading Republicans on Thursday to end the August recess so lawmakers can reach an agreement. Their sharply worded letter accused Republican leaders of doing nothing to fund the fight against Zika, though Democrats last month voted to block a Republican-drafted deal that provided $1.1 billion to combat the disease.

Mr. Obama said that deal simply wasn’t good enough.

That package tapped federal accounts for Ebola and Obamacare to offset $750 million of the cost, angering Democrats who wanted to swiftly pass Mr. Obama’s request for $1.9 billion. They later endorsed a $1.1 billion Senate deal that also would have tacked the money onto the deficit.

“The problems the American people confront do not disappear simply because Congress does,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and his troops wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.

Mr. Ryan accused Senate Democrats on Thursday of using the Zika crisis as a political weapon against Republicans in a contentious election year.

“One important thing to know about this plan is that it is a compromise. We agreed to the exact level of funding Senate Democrats have supported. Democrats sought to have none of the funding be offset, and we agreed to partially offset it,” Mr. Ryan wrote in an op-ed for USA Today. “Unfortunately, when this plan went to the Senate for a vote, Democrats derailed it.”

The upshot is that Mr. Obama will have to make due without any new funds, even as mosquito season ramps up.

“Congress managed to flee Washington exactly when we would expect Zika to be at its maximum. That’s pretty amazing,” said Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

In the meantime, Miami-Dade County is doing what it can to knock out pesky Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that typically carry Zika.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said active transmission has been traced to a 500-square-foot section of Miami just north of downtown, so the square-mile demarcated by federal and state officials is a “buffer zone” around that area.

He said no one should be surprised if more infections are detected despite efforts to beat back transmission, and pregnant women are urged to stay away from the area.

Dr. Frieden said the planes are testing an insecticide known as Naled after local mosquitoes appeared resistant to other sprays. He said the tiny droplets are able to waft into nooks that trucks and backpack sprayers can’t reach, though the aerial effort is only one part of a comprehensive strategy to knock out the insects.

“It’s difficult because this mosquito also lives indoors,” Dr. Frieden said.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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