PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney joined de Blasio on Tuesday in calling on Congress to approve $1.9 billion emergency Zika package. Courtesy of Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office
By Forum Staff
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday called on the federal government to increase funding to the city to continue to combat the Zika virus.
With the number of Zika cases in the five boroughs at 489 and seemingly rising, Hizzoner sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging them “to pass a clean Zika bill that will restore public health emergency program funding and enable New York City to address this outbreak and protect the health and wellbeing of all our residents.”
De Blasio reiterated several times on Tuesday the importance of immediate—bipartisan—action.
“We’re putting tremendous resources into the fight against Zika, but we need the federal government to get involved. We need the federal government to protect the people of New York City and the entire country. We need the federal government to act now and pass the authorization for $1.9 billion in funding for actions against Zika. That has to happen now,” he said. “It’s something that should transcend all partisanship, all sense of regionalism. This is something that’s in the interest of the entire country, and we need action now. Without federal dollars, we cannot deepen our work and we won’t have the assurance that other jurisdictions are doing all they can do to fight Zika.”
To date, de Blasio noted, the City has invested $21 million over three years to enhance mosquito surveillance and control, increase testing, and build greater public awareness around the virus. Since the announcement of the City’s Zika Action Plan in April, over 3,400 at-risk pregnant women have been tested, with 49 pregnant women testing positive and one baby born with microcephaly due to Zika.
Most people testing positive for Zika in the five boroughs acquired the infection from mosquito bites incurred while travelling to Zika-affected areas. Though the mosquito most associated with Zika has not been found in NYC, a related mosquito that is a potential carrier has, DE Blasio said. The Health Department has to-date completed mosquito treatments in every borough, totaling 79 community sprays, with Wednesday’s scheduled event in Queens and Manhattan marking the City’s fifth pesticide spraying in a mosquito-dense area.
Auburndale, Bayside, Corona, Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Murray Hill, Pomonok, and Queensboro Hill are the borough communities scheduled to get sprayed between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
“Although public health experts do not expect that the United States mainland will see the kind of widespread outbreaks that are happening in Brazil or Puerto Rico, that does not mean we can sit by complacently and hope for the best,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan). “We cannot afford to play politics with the health of the American people. It is time for Congressional leadership to act – and act responsibly. We must put adequate resources toward combating this virus to develop a vaccine and enable states to take precautions like the ones that have been implemented here in New York City by Mayor de Blasio and the dedicated team over at New York City Health.”