Zika is the scariest new four-letter word in Miami — worse than the “rent” in Brickell or “rain” during a wedding reception at Vizcaya.
But when examined from a wider perspective, all the hype hardly seems proportional.
Over the last week or so, the number of Zika-related cases in a pair of Miami neighborhoods — Miami Beach and Wynwood — has increased. The problem is, depending on the source, those numbers vary. On Monday, the Miami Herald reported there were eight new cases in South Florida, bringing the total to 64. Meanwhile, ABC News reported Tuesday that eight new cases brought the total to 70. The apparent discrepancy in numbers is actually due to how those cases are categorized. Some refer to locally transmitted infections, while others fall under the out-of-state heading.
But there are other casualties to the media frenzy too. Miami Beach and Wynwood are the epicenters of Miami's music and nightlife scene, and they're feeling the blowback. A few weeks ago, we saw Fool's Gold Day Off, one of the bigger music festivals to move to Miami over the last year, announce it was relocating from Wynwood to Fort Lauderdale. "We're being told by authorities who strongly suggest we move it to another area," Fool's Gold founder A-Trak announced in an Instagram video, "so out of concern for people's safety, which is our first priority, we are moving this event to Fort Lauderdale to Revolution Live."
And just like that, Wynwood lost one if its biggest events of the year.
According to the CDC, the United States as a whole (not including territories) has a reported 2,920 travel-associated cases of Zika. 571 of them, or 20 percent, are from Florida. The tally includes an additional 43 locally acquired cases – all of them in Florida.
It should hardly be a surprise to anyone that South Florida would be the hardest hit by the Zika presence in the United States. The fact is, we, for some reason, have chosen to live in a giant, muggy, tropical swamp naturally hospitable to alligators and, of course, mosquitoes.
Photo by Karli Evans
Miami in particular, the gateway to South America and an active international city with a transient community on par with any major metropolitan area in the world, was always highly susceptible. In 2015, Miami International Airport was only behind JFK when it came to international passengers, at just over 21 million.
The numbers don’t bode well for us, it seems.
It’s certainly hurting a healthy amount of businesses. Several articles have popped up, both here at New Times and at other media outlets, about the economic impact the Zika warnings are having on the city’s hospitality, nightlife, and tourism industries, especially in Wynwood. It’s gotten to the point that some places are having to lay off employees, and the Wynwood Business Improvement District is asking for compensation to offset losses.
Still, if we use some perspective, this outbreak isn’t exactly the end of the world. Considering the relatively low numbers – 614 cases in a state of 20 million – things could be a lot worse.
Still feeling slightly panicky? Ask yourself: What exactly am I so afraid of?
Obviously, if you're pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or with a partner that is either of those two things, then you indeed have a lot to fear. Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a condition wherein children are born with unusually small heads. It's also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death.
Zika is not insignificant.
But let's take a moment real quick to run through all the things you might encounter in Miami Beach or Wynwood that are more likely to cause you harm than Zika: cars, cigarette smoke, guns, violent bouncers, the ocean, crashing banner planes, Oprah's SUV. All of the above have done more tangible, measurable harm to people in Miami than Zika, but they never stopped us from going out to a club or seeing a concert before. I mean, Jesus, this is a city that basically wakes up and says to itself, Hmm, how can I violently kill my constituents today? And, somehow, it keeps surprising us with new and innovative ways. People, this is a city that inspired the movie Scarface, which is basically a three-hour long muzzle flash with the occasional cocaine break.
And here we are getting all worked up over Zika?
With the most active time of the year, musically speaking, quickly approaching, what a shame it would be for us to let Zika halt the artistic progress we've spent decades building. If even one fewer ticket to III Points gets sold; if even one artist decides not to come down for Art Basel or Miami Music Week — what a shame that would be.
There are no vaccines and no cure for Zika. The reason is simple: It was never worth the trouble of coming up with one before. Up until recently, scientist assumed the virus was rather benign. The notion of Zika affecting the brain development of fetuses is fairly new. When patients show signs of the virus — rash, red eyes, fever, or joint pain — there’s not
The good news is that for the majority of Zika-infected patients, symptoms disappear within a few days; more often than not, many never even get sick.
In the meantime, what are we to do while doctors and scientists are studying the virus in their labs?
If you guessed stay inside and cover yourself in coffee grounds while local venues shoulder the financial burden of your unfounded paranoia, you guessed wrong.
A Friday night in Wynwood after the news of Zika first broke.
Photo by Karli Evans
If it's the spraying of Naled that's got you upset, we understand. How Florida’s government has handled the situation when it decided to spray Miami with the controversial pesticide while giving
But this isn’t the first time the U.S. has had to use widespread mosquito control in response to a crisis. Naled was used in Puerto Rico in 1987 to stem the tide of dengue fever across three states in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina — namely Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas — and, that’s right, Florida in 2004 after a series of hurricanes battered the state.
Plus, you know where you'll be safe from the bombardment? Inside the Electric Pickle on a Friday night. Or Kill Your Idol on Wednesday Ladies Night.
It's hard enough being a music venue in Miami. They don't need this right now.
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Listen, this is not some stubborn refusal to acknowledge the severity of the situation or dismiss people’s fears. More than anything, it’s a call for logical reasoning — objective sanity. As always, knowledge is power. Unfortunately, when so many of our sources of information seek to scare us into bomb shelters and the corners of our homes or only provide partial answers, our minds fill in the blanks and human nature tends to go to dark places.
Zika is a real thing, and we need to take precautions. The Aedes aegypti mosquito likes to bite during the day, so lather up in repellant when you step into the sunshine (and even when you go out at night), but don’t let it hold you back from living your life. If anything, there are worse things in Miami to ruin our day-to-day lives: traffic, parking, overeager tow trucks. Just like the country was never overrun by past epidemics like Ebola or bird flu thanks to the hard work of officials and medical professionals, we’ll get through this as well and we’ll be just fine.
Let's not add any self-inflicted wounds.