Wednesday, July 18, 2018
News Roundup

Miami business owners anxious for Zika warnings to end

MIAMI — Business owners are anxious for federal health officials to lift a travel advisory warning for pregnant women and their partners to avoid parts of Miami and South Beach that have been identified as zones of active transmission of the Zika virus.

According to the Miami Herald, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it could lift its advisory for a 1-square-mile zone encompassing Miami's Wynwood neighborhood on Sept. 19 if no new locally contracted cases are confirmed.

Business owners and analysts say that if Zika infections persist in Miami and a 1.5-square-mile portion of Miami Beach, visitors who have been waiting to make reservations in Miami-Dade County may turn elsewhere. The Wynwood Business Improvement District has asked the city of Miami for money to compensate it for Zika's impact.

Cancellations since the first local Zika infection was confirmed in Wynwood in late July have forced Felipe Correa to lay off one employee from his company running tours in Miami, Key West and the Everglades.

"My Miami tour basically collapsed. … All of my pre-arrival reservations canceled," Correa said. "This tour goes out once a week, and I had to cancel eight out of my 12 weekly summer season tours."

Connecticut resident Coco Lewis decided to move her annual birthday party at a South Beach hotel next month to Las Vegas because of Zika.

"We don't want to chance it," said Lewis, 23. "It's just too risky."

South Florida's luxury real estate market, already slumping because of weak foreign currencies, is reporting cancellations by potential buyers from New York and Europe.

"Zika is a deal-breaker for clients who plan to have children," said Senada Adzem of brokerage Douglas Elliman.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has classified all of Miami-Dade County as an area of "widespread transmission." The United Kingdom has advised pregnant women to avoid the county for nonessential travel and consider postponing nonessential travel in the rest of Florida.

In August, leisure airfare prices fell 17 percent year-over-year at Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, according to an analysis by Harrell Associates. Hotel bookings in greater downtown Miami fell nearly 3 percent in the first three weeks of August compared to the same period last year, according to data collected by analytics firm Smith Travel Report.

It's not clear how much of that decline is attributable to Zika.

"It's a race against the clock for public officials," said Mekael Teshome, an analyst at PNC Bank. "If they can contain the virus quickly before the peak winter season, we could see confidence come back."

Zika infection can cause severe brain-related birth defects, including a dangerously small head, if women are infected during pregnancy. The mosquito-borne virus also can be sexually transmitted.

Of Florida's 56 nontravel-related Zika cases, 11 have been traced to Miami Beach and 29 to Wynwood. The rest are being considered isolated cases and have not prompted authorities to issue warnings of local transmission.

Miami-Dade County officials expect to spend an extra $10 million fighting Zika through the summer, money that county commissioners otherwise hoped to use for affordable housing. The city of Miami approved $247,000 for special events meant to draw customers back to Wynwood. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is surveying local businesses about economic damage related to Zika.

In South Beach, hotel bookings increased 7.4 percent year-over-year since the first local Zika case was confirmed, according to numbers provided by STR and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Miami Beach officials are hoping to minimize Zika's effect on the local economy. Hotels regularly spray for mosquitoes, and planes fly over the beach with banners reading, "Use insect repellent. No Zika."

Critics have been troubled by the release of information about Zika infections by Gov. Rick Scott and state agencies, saying that not enough details have been provided about where infections are suspected and that the number of tourists contracting the virus in Florida may be underreported.

Comments
Epilogue: Carolyn Nelson is remembered for her big heart, a love for education and a gift for guidance

Epilogue: Carolyn Nelson is remembered for her big heart, a love for education and a gift for guidance

For years as a guidance counselor at St. Petersburg High, Carolyn Harris Nelson helped scores of students navigate their way toward their next steps in life.One of them was Ryan Halstead, now an assistant principal at the school, who recalls that Mrs...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Coming soon: a final vote to hike parking fines by 50 percent in St. Pete Beach; Ron DeSantis still silent on Jim Jordan; and more

Top 5 at noon: Coming soon: a final vote to hike parking fines by 50 percent in St. Pete Beach; Ron DeSantis still silent on Jim Jordan; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:COMING SOON: A FINAL VOTE TO HIKE PARKING FINES IN ST. PETE BEACHParking in St. Pete Beach already is more expensive than a month ago, and the cost is about to go up even more, particularly f...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Cubans build lives in Mexican border town while still dreaming of America

Cubans build lives in Mexican border town while still dreaming of America

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — Lourdes Lisett De La Torre arrived at the Gateway to the Americas bridge carrying nothing but a backpack and a phone.She had left behind her mother, her house and her country. A daughter and grandson waited for her in Houston.B...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County softball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County softball team

Player of the year: OF Faith Allen, Jr., Palm Harbor UniversityPitcher of the year: Tori Brennan, So., East LakeCoach of the year: Linda Derk, Admiral FarragutFirst teamP Alanah Rivera, So., Boca CiegaP Savannah Farkas, Sr., Northside ChristianP Bre ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fourth victim recovered after planes from troubled flight school crash in Everglades

Fourth victim recovered after planes from troubled flight school crash in Everglades

As investigators continued to scour the Everglades Wednesday morning in the aftermath of Tuesday’s mid-air collision between two small aircraft, police said they recovered a fourth body.By mid-morning, the body had not yet been identified."Homicide i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kahwa to be served in up to 130 Publix cafes

Kahwa to be served in up to 130 Publix cafes

Two popular local brands are combining forces: Kahwa announced today it’s partnering with Publix to serve its coffee and lattes in 130 store cafes.The first to roll out are in Bradenton and Winter Garden Publix stores, but the locations will expand a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
SEC media days: Mississippi State not looking ahead to Dan Mullen’s return

SEC media days: Mississippi State not looking ahead to Dan Mullen’s return

ATLANTA — If the Dan Mullen's return to Starkville on Sept. 29 is going to be one of the biggest games in Mississippi history, his former Mississippi State players aren't ready to talk about it."We know it's a big-time SEC game," safety Ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
ACC chief doesn’t like ‘optics’ of widespread college sports gambling

ACC chief doesn’t like ‘optics’ of widespread college sports gambling

A few highlights from ACC commissioner John Swofford's nearly hour-long opening address at this morning's ACC Kickoff in Charlotte.•  Swofford noted the ACC Network — in partnership with ESPN — remains set to launch i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

WASHINGTON - For nearly five years, the young Russian political-science student was an unusual fixture at the most important events of the U.S. conservative movement.Maria Butina, who was indicted this week on charges of being a covert Russian agent,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Rough Riders help restore Cuban monuments to their namesake

Tampa Rough Riders help restore Cuban monuments to their namesake

Theodore Roosevelt and his cavalry unit known as the Rough Riders sailed from Tampa to Cuba in June 1898 to help that nation defeat Spain. To honor the Rough Riders’ heroics, Cuba erected two monuments near its city of Santiago. Now, more tha...
Updated: 1 hour ago