The Department Of Health Leads A 'Gaggle' Of Reporters Astray In Miami Beach

Aug 25, 2016

Teams from the Florida Health Department went door-to-door in South Beach, a known Zika "hot zone" in Miami-Dade County, Wednesday.

They were telling residents about the risks of Zika, while passing along Zika prevention kits and collecting urine samples from volunteers. 

Though media was invited to attend, the DOH field workers were caught off guard.

'What I saw when I arrived was workers roaming, knocking on doors and they were not aware that we were coming.'

Joey Flechas, a journalist covering Miami Beach for the Miami Herald, was one of the representatives  of several  media outlets including WLRN, who got word in the late afternoon of a media opportunity with DOH workers.

"It wasn't completely clear what the opportunity was going to be, and what I saw when I arrived was workers roaming, knocking on doors and they were not aware that we were coming," Flechas said. 

When it comes to preventing Zika in Florida, this kind of unclear back-and-forth communication from the county, city, state and federal departments is nothing new.  

A number of dueling statements from Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came about after Scott released a statement on Wednesday that he had asked the CDC for 5,000 antibody tests and had only received 1,200.

In response, the CDC said in a statement: "To date, CDC has shipped enough material for about 2,000 Zika lab tests, the number of tests Florida said would allow them to be at full capacity for Zika testing." 

In addition, the daily emails from the Florida Department of Health continue to clear small zones in active Zika mosquito-borne transmission areas, while the CDC's travel advisory boundaries still remain untouched and in effect. 

And just last week, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County officials said they did not have enough time to take "necessary steps," after Scott publicly announced that  five new cases of non-travel related Zika transmissions had been reported by the DOH in Miami Beach. 

Health officials taped Zika advisories to the front doors of apartment buildings in Miami Beach south of Lincoln Road.
Credit Amanda Rabines

Wednesday, the miscommunication became more apparent. 

'There's a gaggle of media there... who's going to want to pee in a cup in that situation?'

  The DOH field workers had no knowledge of the arrival of media outlets. They had to continue protocol while a group of cameramen and reporters trailed behind them.

The media caught footage of the Zika advisories being taped to the front doors of apartment buildings in Miami Beach, but were unsuccessful in getting any sort of comment from DOH workers. 

Flechas said the residents were surprised to see the media as well, like Mariano Corcilli, a resident of Miami Beach. 

"I'm walking down the sidewalk and I see a gaggle of media outside the building. I ask one of the cameramen and he's like, 'We're here for Zika.' So my first thought is, 'Does my neighbor have Zika? Did this really hit home?'" Corcelli said, admitting he was relieved to find out it was just the DOH surveying the neighborhood.

Corcelli filled out the survey for the Health Department, but refused to give a urine sample, stating he had already been tested last week. 

"I mean that's kind of weird. When you have three people go up to you and be like 'Hi. We never met, can I have bodily samples?' and there's a gaggle of media there... who's going to want to pee in a cup in that situation?" said Corcilli. 

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