A look inside Zika's ground zero: How Miami is reacting to the threat

One restaurant closes, others not as concerned
Posted at 5:59 PM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-03 04:03:38-04

The Florida Department of Health says a 15th person has acquired the Zika virus from a mosquito in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami.

MAP: Tracking Zika cases in Florida | Special Section: Zika in Florida

NewsChannel 5 visited the one square mile area north of downtown Miami to see how people are reacting with the growing threat.

“My due date is Sept. 8,” said Maria Guzman, holding her belly.

She's eight months pregnant and she works in what's become ground zero for Zika. The mosquito-borne virus causes a fever, but is linked to birth defects in babies whose mothers contract the virus while pregnant.

Guzman said that makes her husband uncomfortable.

“He told me that I need to stop working because I’m in the area,” Guzman said.

She is taking steps to keep herself and the 75 children at Cherry Blossom Learning Center where she works safe.

A fumigator sprayed insecticide to kill mosquitoes Tuesday, and will be back next week.

Staff is limiting the time kids spend outside. And they’ve asked parents to buy bracelets which contain insect repellent. 

“Parents feel like there is more safety with this. Children are using them on their wrists and legs too,” Guzman said showing off one of the bracelets.

A few blocks away from Cherry Blossom, a culinary incubator and arts center isn’t taking any chances.  Wynwood Yard has shut down temporarily. The first business doing so because of Zika.

“We’re unique as an all outdoor, 100 percent outdoor venue,” Trina Sargalski said standing in front of the locked gates.

Wynwood Yard is an outdoor courtyard with food trucks, a bar and a stage.

“Out of an abundance of caution, it was the best choice to make for the safety and well-being of our guests and our team members,” Sargalski added.

At FCI Furniture Consultants, the Zika threat has Joy Tokar's attention. As manager of the store, she bought bug spray for her staff; just one of many precautions she's taking today.

“We’re making mad dashes out to our cars from the building and generally staying inside,” she said.

For people who aren’t pregnant, or don’t have kids, the response has been a lot more subdued. 

“We’re in that cone and the hurricane is about to come to us. I feel like people are doing the same thing,” said Reynaldo Cruz, director of St. John Clinic, the only medical center in Wynwood. He said people are reacting like they do to a hurricane in the tropics, with a wait and see approach.

But he’s being more proactive by handing out flyers to make sure people are prepared if the Zika threat gets any bigger.

“We as a clinic have not seen hysteria or panic or anything like that,” Cruz said. “What they’ve recommended we do is a lot of education, so that’s what we have done.”

He added the clinic is sending pregnant patients to a different medical center outside the targeted zone so they won’t run the risk of contracting the virus here.

Wynwood is an arts district which attracts many people to check out murals on the walls. NewsChannel 5 crews saw big crowds outside. Not everyone is letting the threat of Zika keep them inside.

If you do go outside, the recommendation to stay safe is to wear long sleeves, and apply bug spray with Deet on exposed skin.