Zika reports blamed for business downturn in Miami's Wynwood

AP News
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Posted: Aug 09, 2016 12:17 PM

MIAMI (AP) — Business has plummeted in Miami's Wynwood arts district since Zika infections were reported there, according to gallery and restaurant owners who want government officials to speed up their response and help offset their losses.

At an emergency meeting Monday, the Wynwood Business Improvement District urged state, local and federal officials to hasten efforts to clear mosquitoes that carry the virus from the area. It also asked for recovery funds to make up for lost business since the U.S. mainland's first locally acquired Zika cases were reported in the neighborhood north of downtown Miami.

Ken Bercel took out a $15,000 loan to keep his Lost and Found Saloon open after customers stopped coming, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday (http://hrld.us/2aHVLZf ).

"Money is coming out of our savings, our banks, our lenders, just to keep the business open right now," said Bercel. "How do we finish this summer?"

Seventeen Zika cases not related to travel outside the U.S. have been reported in South Florida, including a person from Palm Beach County who recently traveled to Miami-Dade County, health officials said Monday. A 1-square-mile zone encompassing Wynwood remained the only area with active Zika transmissions, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Health.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned pregnant women to avoid traveling to Wynwood. Pregnant women who live there have been told to take extra steps to avoid mosquito bites.

The virus is primarily transmitted by certain tropical mosquitoes but it also can be contracted through sex with an infected partner. Most people who contract Zika only experience mild flu-like symptoms, but it can lead to severe brain-related birth defects if women are infected during pregnancy.

Miami-Dade County is using aerial spraying of pesticides there, in addition to door-to-door inspections.

Gov. Rick Scott has urged people to continue patronizing Wynwood businesses.

The Miami Parking Authority has announced special rates in Wynwood for its monthly art walk on Saturday and on Wednesdays through Aug. 31.

An international "open for business" campaign by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau will help promote special events and deals in Wynwood, said Rolando Aedo, the agency's senior vice president of marketing and tourism. He called Wynwood "a relatively small geographic part of our community but an immensely important part of our tourism business."

Some residents and tourists remain undaunted by the advisory and have continued visiting the neighborhood that's popular for its trendy boutiques, lively bar scene and bold outdoor murals. But the Herald reports business owners are taking significant losses.

At R House, a restaurant and lounge, executives said business Saturday was down 90 percent.

"You're saying we're open for business but nobody is coming," R House owner Rocco Carulli said.

When a reporter on Monday approached Zak Stern, owner of the cafe Zak the Baker, he replied, "Surely there's something else you can report on."

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Information from: The Miami Herald, http://www.herald.com