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Monday, September 12, 2016

Congress on vacation while Zika virus grows on overtime

"...almost 50 Americans have gotten Zika here, right here in the USA—not by travelling to some foreign country, but by walking around Florida."  Ronald Klain in The Daily Beast.

It makes no sense for the pro-life Republican party, the political zealots who oppose all intervention with a woman's pregnancy regardless of the safety of the mother, to take summer 2016 vacation and do nothing to protect the unborn child from the consequences of the growing Zika virus health menace.  A pregnant woman who becomes infected by the Zika virus has a high risk of passing the infection on to the fetus, a situation that appears to cause severe birth defects.
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US Congress must act to protect mothers and the unborn from the birth defects caused by Zika!

MAYDAY!  Reports Ronald Klain in The Daily Beast

Zika Exploded While Congress Went on Vacation

Congress’s inaction on Zika is especially pathetic. 

Every constituency has been cowed into baffled submission except one: the mosquitoes.

Dear Congress,  I hope you enjoyed your Summer Vacation! You’ve been back for a week, and you still haven’t funded the Zika response

Let’s recap how we got here. 

Although President Obama promptly submitted a Zika response request back in February for a (relatively) modest $1.9 billion to control mosquitos, battle the disease, and accelerate vaccine development, you left town for the summer without passing any of it—not a penny. Instead, you voted on a series of half-baked efforts designed primarily to confuse the question of who was to blame for congressional inaction on Zika. A House bill funded only a fraction of what was needed, and did that by slashing ongoing work to make sure that Ebola is finally extinguished. (Really? Do we really want to risk a resurgence of Ebola? Really?).

This drew a strong rebuke from the President, who remembered when you were busy excoriating him for not taking the Ebola threat seriously enough. The Senate took up a bill that was loaded up with political poison pills (including a provision on Confederate flags on federal land) that was destined for failure. I give you credit: if the goal was to confuse casual observers about why Congress has not acted on Zika, what I have seen on social media and in blog post comments suggests that your confusion succeeded, spectacularly.

But do you know who wasn’t confused by the inaction? The mosquitoes. They just kept working away while you were gone. And by the way, they did not ask anyone’s party affiliation before they bit them.

Right now, almost 50 Americans have gotten Zika here, right here in the USA—not by travelling to some foreign country, but by walking around Florida. And the risk of local Zika transmission seem to be spreading, with cases now popping up outside of Miami-Dade County including one as far away as Tampa, FL.

We also found—for the first time ever—Zika in the mosqutoes flying around Florida, more indication of sexual transmission of the virus, evidence of male-to-male sexual transmission of Zika, and more suggestions that Zika is going to be with us for a while. 

In fact, the FDA announced that all blood donations would now have to be tested for Zika. Drs. Anthony Faucci and Tom Frieden—nonpartisan heroes who have saved untold numbers of lives—have all but held a telethon to try to get the money to fight the growing threat.

And yes, while you were gone, for the first time ever in U.S. history, the CDC was forced to tell pregnant women, the women thinking about becoming pregnant, and their partners, not to travel to parts of the continental United States. While you were off vacationing, public health authorities were warning citizens that there are parts of our own country where it is not safe to vacation. (And what about the pregnant women who actually live in these areas—who don’t have a choice about being in these areas?)

Moreover, Zika exploded in Puerto Rico. The official case count was about 3,000 as you wound things down for vacation in mid-July; last week’s total had the number of cases at over 15,000. And those are just the officially counted cases—there are certainly tens of thousands of more people with Zika on the island who have not yet been tested.

Zika had a big boom in the continental United States. There were about 1,300 cases in the 50 states when you left for break; now the total is 3,000—and again, that’s laboratory confirmed cases, the actual count is several times higher. (Zika symptoms show up only in about 20 percent of people with the virus, and generally, health officials don’t test people who don’t show symptoms.) Not quite as scary as Puerto Rico—but still, more than a doubling in eight weeks.

So a lot happened with Zika while you were gone. And to put it mildly, all of it was awful.

Also, we had floods in Louisiana while you were gone, and a hurricane hit Florida. We don’t know if local transmission of Zika will get worse because of these events, or how much worse, but, it does provide a reminder that Mother Nature definitely did not take the summer off.
So Congress, you are back. I would like to say that you are back in the nick of time, but, “the nick of time” came and past months ago.

Just fund the Zika response, this coming week, please. 

Pick something else to score partisan points on, something else to bicker about. Because in a few more weeks, you are going to leave again, for another recess, and the babies born to mothers infected with Zika will start to arrive in larger numbers (beyond the 17 tragic cases we have seen already). And that’s a “while you were away” letter that will be too heart-breaking for me to write.

Sincerely,
Ron Klain
White House Ebola Response Coordinator

(Unfortunately, the Pro-Life GOP political party should not need this kind of rebuke!)


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