MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — A typical Labor Day on Miami Beach would see the place teeming with locals and tourists – one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year, the punctuation mark at the end of summer.
But this is not a typical Labor Day. It is one shrouded in Zika.
Crowds on world famous South Beach Monday were not thin. There simply were no crowds. With a travel warning in place, many are heeding the warning, and those who are coming are coming armed, like Veronica Siffert and her husband visiting from Texas.
“We brought bug spray, just to try to be prepared, but we didn’t want to let it hold us back from enjoying the beach for a hypothetical that could happen,” Siffert said.
Ed Offer and his wife, Desiree, visiting from Tampa were not wearing bug spray and not worried.
“We know about it, but there’s really no real concern for either of us honestly,” Ed Offer said. That indifference and a lack of awareness about the disease and how it spreads worries those battling Zika. While it can cause terrible birth defects in the children of infected women, anyone bitten by an infected mosquito can become a carrier, a spreader.
At the Miami Botanical Garden, the gates were closed Monday. The Garden’s website says it is “temporarily closed for maintenance.” The maintenance involves an intense mosquito eradication effort after three mosquitoes captured there were found to be bulging with Zika tainted blood. They are the first of more than 40,000 mosquitoes tested in Florida since the outbreak found to be infected, increasing concerns about a potential growth of the outbreak.
At the popular News Cafe on Ocean Drive tables, this Labor Day went begging. At the usually media-friendly establishment, a manager declined to discuss it.
“We don’t do interviews now, I’m sorry,” said the manager who did not give his name. Bad news isn’t something most businesses want to talk about.
One hotel owner, who asked that his name and the name of his hotel not be broadcast, told CBS4 News that Zika has been a scourge for business.
“There’s been a major slowdown in the quantity of reservations coming in since the Zika was announced,” the hotel owner said. He said he has had to cut back the hours of his housekeeping staff by fifty percent.
Congress returns to Washington Tuesday after taking the longest summer vacation in history. Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate from Florida will be battling in a non-partisan effort to get a $1.8 billion Zika battle plan approved, an effort that has been previously attempted, but blocked by a Republican-controlled Senate.
The Florida Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control have both said funds to fight the spread of the disease have essentially run out, and the agencies are “borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul” in order to keep inspection, testing and eradication teams in the field.