As warmer weather continues to spread across the United States, so do mosquitos. And with the spread of mosquitos comes the potential spread of Zika — a virus that has infected millions of people in more than 40 countries. According to ABC News, one out of every three Americans is worried about contracting Zika; however, most American are confident that the federal government could effectively respond to an outbreak if one were to occur. But that doesn’t mean confidence is infallible; in fact, many Americans also support Zika funding. So why isn’t Congress approving it? Why isn’t Congress approving the Obama administration's proposed plan to spend nearly $2 billion on Zika prevention?
Unfortunately, the answer has to do with party lines and the present state of America's economy. In fact, according to NBC News, Republicans have refused to fully fund Obama’s Zika proposal because they believe $2 billion dollars is too much to spend on Zika protection and prevention and because such a large sum of money will drive up the deficit.
However, during a recent poll conducted by Langer Research Associates, ABC News, and The Washington Post, it was revealed that 73 percent of Americans are in favor of funding the Zika virus spending proposal, and 46 percent believe Congress should approve it immediately. But not all Americans agree: 24 percent believe the proposed function should only be approved if other budget offsets can be agreed upon by the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress, and 20 percent of those surveyed oppose the spending proposal altogether.
Unfortunately, Zika is spreading fast and many officials believe the virus will be in the United States sometime this summer, according to NBC. And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have allocated more than $500 million to Zika prevention, it is not enough. And so American's must wait.
And while this "wait-and-see" approach may sound terrifying, it is consistent with how federal officials and the general public have responded to infectious disease threats in the past. What's more, while many Americans report being worried about the spread of Zika, only one out of every four reported taking active steps to prevent it — i.e. these Americans admitted to wearing bugspray and/or avoiding the outdoors, according to ABC News.
But some government officials, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, believe the proposal should be funded immediately, according to NBC:
There is no reason why we should not fully fund this proposal and listen to the doctors and the health care experts that are asking us for this and build from there.
And Rubio makes a good point: "Let's not play with fire here." After all, the people who will be disproportionately affected by Zika are pregnant women, especially low-income pregnant women. And waiting on funding is gambling with the health and lives of those women and their potential children.