Gov. Scott: All pregnant women can get free testing for Zika
PANAMA CITY -- Gov. Rick Scott held another Zika roundtable Wednesday, this time in the Florida Panhandle, hundreds of miles from the epicenter of the virus in a one-mile zone north of downtown Miami.
Facing a group of local health, tourism and political leaders in Panama City, Scott emphasized that pregnant women can get tested for the virus everywhere at any county health department in Florida, not just in Miami-Dade.
"If you're pregnant and you want to get a free test, you can do that," Scott said. "We're ramping that up across the entire state."
The governor said he plans to visit Miami, but he didn't say when. Speaking with reporters after the forum, he again chided the federal government and Congress for its failure to appropriate money to fight Zika.
Scott said federal and state officials have tested about 20,000 mosquitoes but have not found one that carried the Zika virus.
The two-term Republican governor has been a regular presence on the major cable networks, explaining Florida's response. In the past 24 hours, Scott appeared twice on CNN and on MSNBC, CNBC and Fox.
During the roundtable, the local airport director and a health official both expressed concern about the potential impact on tourism. Nancy Tipps, clinical services director for the county health department, suggested signs or leaflets at the airport and at local ob-gyn offices.
"Be more proactive," Tipps said.
Panama City's beachfront is a popular destination not just for college kids on spring break, but for families and tourists from throughout the southeast -- including during the long hot summer. Bay County, like the rest of the Florida, also is a hotbed of high school football. With the season about to start, local officials are concerned about thousands of players, coaches and fans being outdoors at night.
"I know this is going to sound crazy, but I'm worried about Friday night and Thursday night football," Superintendent of Schools Bill Husfelt said.
Scott, without missing a beat, replied: "No standing water, bug repellent and long sleeves and long pants."
County mosquito control crews regularly spray the city's two football stadium complexes before the games begin, and were doing it even before the Zika epidemic. Bay County is one of a number of areas where an independent mosquito control district is supported through local property taxes.