Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach mayors say state told them to keep Zika mosquito sites secret

A plane flies over South Beach during aerial spraying of Naled to fight against the spread of the Zika virus by mosquitoes on Sept. 18. [CARL JUSTE | Miami Herald]

A plane flies over South Beach during aerial spraying of Naled to fight against the spread of the Zika virus by mosquitoes on Sept. 18. [CARL JUSTE | Miami Herald]

MIAMI — The mayors of Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach accuse the Florida Department of Health of lying after the state agency said last week that it never told local officials to hide the locations in Miami Beach where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were captured.

Florida's health department strongly denied instructing local officials to keep the information confidential — and said the decision was entirely up to Miami-Dade — after the Miami Herald reported on Friday that a county attorney said the state agency had ordered them to keep it a secret.

The statement was made during a court hearing for the Miami Herald's lawsuit against Miami-Dade seeking the locations of traps in Miami Beach where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were captured this month. The suit seeks disclosure of the locations on grounds that the information would help the public make decisions about precautions to take if they live or work nearby, and also inform the community debate on the use of the controversial insecticide naled.

On Sunday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who is facing a runoff election in November, pushed back against the Florida health department's denial with a written statement repeating that the agency had ordered secrecy in regards to the locations.

"During multiple meetings, phone calls and conversations, officials from the Florida Department of Health explicitly stated to county officials that information identifying the addresses of traps containing mosquitoes positive for the Zika virus is confidential during active, ongoing epidemiological investigations," Gimenez said in the statement.

"It is disturbing that the Florida Department of Health is denying previous directives to maintain confidentiality of the trap locations," Gimenez said in the statement. "At the end of the day, this is about the health and safety of our community, and we have been carrying out the express orders of the Florida Department of Health as it relates to disclosure of mosquito-trap information."

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine corroborated Gimenez's statement, which added that the state health department had ordered the information kept secret to protect the privacy of residents living in the areas where Zika-positive mosquitoes were captured.

Levine said he was present when Florida health department officials, including Miami-Dade Director Lillian Rivera and state Surgeon General Celeste Philip, instructed county and city officials not to disclose the locations. He said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also told him that the health department had ordered the information remain confidential.

"Mayor Gimenez is only doing what the state told him, his staff, me and my entire staff, specifically, that they would not permit the county to release the information on the locations," Levine said Sunday. "Lillian Rivera said it multiple times that she has been instructed and the department of health will not permit the locations of the traps to be released. That's No. 1. No. 2, I remember hearing the state surgeon general saying it directly to us, Celeste Philip. And No. 3, Adam Putnam told me and the city manager directly in my office that. In fact, I reaffirmed it with Commissioner Putnam on the phone the other day, and he was dumbfounded."

Representatives for Florida's department of health and agriculture did not immediately respond to the Herald's request for comment on the mayors' statements. Jennifer Meale, a spokeswoman for the agriculture department, replied to the Herald's request in an email Sunday.

Meale's statement: "In consultation with the Department of Health, we believe the locations of the traps are exempt per 381.0031(6), F.S.," a state statute governing information gathered during epidemiological investigations.

On Friday, the health department issued a written statement denying the agency ever muzzled the county.

"The statements made by the county today are completely false," Mara Gambineri, a health department spokeswoman, said in an email. "At no time did the Florida Department of Health instruct Miami-Dade County to withhold the location of mosquito traps. This is solely the decision of the county."

Miami-Dade remains the only place in the nation identified as having active spread of Zika by mosquitoes, specifically in a 4.5-square-mile area of Miami Beach between Eighth and 63rd streets from the ocean to the bay.

As of Friday, Florida's health department reported a total of 105 local mosquito-borne Zika infections, most of those in Miami-Dade. An additional 773 travel-related Zika cases also have been reported in Florida, including 90 pregnant women.

Contact Daniel Chang at dchang@miamiherald.com or 305-376-2012. Follow @dchangmiami.

Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach mayors say state told them to keep Zika mosquito sites secret 09/26/16 [Last modified: Monday, September 26, 2016 1:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Culpepper falls just short on 'Survivor' finale

    Human Interest

    In the end, Tampa lawyer Brad Culpepper fell just short, and the ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneer lost Survivor: Game Changers and the $1 million prize to Sarah Lacina, a police officer from Iowa.

  2. Families dispute claims that slain Tampa Palms roommates shared neo-Nazi beliefs

    Crime

    TAMPA — Andrew Oneschuk never liked making small talk on the phone, his father said, but the last time the two spoke, something seemed off.

    Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman lived in a Tampa Palms apartment with Devon Arthurs and Brandon Russell. Oneschuk and Himmelman reportedly planned to move out.
  3. Brad Culpepper makes it to final 3 on Survivor, but jury picks Sarah

    The Feed

    UPDATE, WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Tampa's Brad Culpepper make it to the final 3 on Survivor, but jurors chose Sarah as the winner of the $1 million.

    Original report follows:

    "The Tables Have Turned" - Brad Culpepper, Tai Trang and Hali Ford on the fourth episode of SURVIVOR: Game Changers on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS Entertainment
  4. Erasmo Ramirez continues to deliver for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Pitching coach Jim Hickey has a saying he uses with the Rays pitchers: "Don't let them hit the ball. Make them hit the ball."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jesus Sucre (45) hugs right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) in the dugout after his two run home run in the second inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
  5. Tom Jones: Rays made right move sending Blake Snell to minors

    The Heater

    tom jones' two cents

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Blake Snell’s struggles on the mound were only one of the reasons the Rays sent him to the minors; some other red flags existed. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]