Florida Gov. Rick Scott had the right intentions; in August, Scott announced that the state would be offering free Zika tests from state-run labs to pregnant women. These free tests, meant to ease the worry of pregnant women who either didn't have the health insurance coverage or the financial ability to pay for the costly Zika testing, worked in theory but not in practice. The state-run labs in Florida are buried under a backlog of Zika tests, with hundreds of pregnant women waiting weeks to hear results of a test that could potentially change their lives.
The difference in test result delivery between state-run labs and private labs is shocking; most private labs send results in less than a week. For pregnant women who are waiting to find out if they have contracted the Zika virus, and potentially passed it along to their unborn child, the wait must be excruciating. The Zika virus, which can either be spread through the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti variety of mosquito or sexually transmitted by a male, is especially dangerous for babies. A pregnant mother can pass the virus to her child, and that child could then be at risk for a whole host of congenital neurological defects like microcephaly, a condition where a child's head does not grow at a normal rate. Microcephaly causes lifelong physical and mental difficulties.
Hundreds of women throughout Florida, and in particular within the Miami-Dade County where local Zika infections have been reported, are waiting for their Zika test results. For those who would like to consider abortion as an option, time is not on their side; it is illegal to have an abortion in the state of Florida after 24 weeks.
Luckily, help is finally on the way. Gov. Scott traveled to Washington earlier this week to ask Congress for help with the backlog of Zika tests. In response, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly sending along seven lab technicians to help process the tests. While Scott said in a statement that more help would be needed, the Florida Department of Health is also offering new equipment to help speed up the process. According to The New York Times, Scott said:
“With more than 70 cases of locally acquired Zika in Florida, it is critically important that we continue to provide everyone, especially pregnant women, with test results as quickly as possible."
For Krystal Cruz, a seven-month-pregnant Florida woman waiting to hear results from her test who spoke with CBS News, the sooner the better.
"Is it a yes? Is it a no? What’s going on? It’s going to drive me crazy,” Cruz said. “But it is better to get tested and to know, then not to know.”