A small area of Miami is the breeding-ground zero for aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. Pregnant women have been advised to avoid the neighborhood. On a visit to the Borinquen Health Center in Miami today, Hillary Clinton called for Congress to reconvene to address the Zika crisis with meaningful and effective legislation.
At Borinquen Medical Center in Miami on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton toured a facility tirelessly working to prevent and treat the Zika virus. Clinton also highlighted the work of the healthcare professionals and community health centers on the front lines of the crisis and called on Republican leaders to call Congress back into session and confront this public health crisis. Clinton emphasized that Congress should either pass the bipartisan funding bill the Senate has already approved or find a new compromise to provide funding for rapid diagnostic testing, treatment and research for a vaccine, free of politics. “This is always a problem on the brink of a public health challenge that hasn’t happened to you. It hasn’t happened to somebody you know. It’s hard sometimes to get people mobilized. But this is an epidemic that will only grow and affect more people,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s remarks, as transcribed, are below:
“Thank you so much, Paul. And it’s a great pleasure and honor for me to be here with all of you here at Borinquen and also to have other health centers represented here. Thank you, Paul. I appreciate very much your leadership. He and I have known each other for a number of years. And it’s great to be here at this facility. I also want to thank Dr. Deborah Garcia and Dr. Carla McGuire; Dr. Pedro Greer, Jr.; Dr. Aileen Mar, all of whom are lined up behind me. Mayor Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County, thank you very much. I appreciate your being here and all the dedicated physicians, nurses, researchers, and the entire medical staff of the centers here. I am delighted that I have just been able to come and see for myself and hear for myself what you are doing here. And I know we could be repeating that at a lot of the other health centers represented.
You are on the front lines, not only on behalf of Zika but on behalf of all of our public health challenges. And I am a very strong supporter of community health centers, of federally qualified health centers. I have publicly advocated that we need many more. We are making progress on giving people access to health care, but we need a broader network of health centers to be able to care for people and particularly to serve as the safety net care provider. So I thank you for what you do every day and for your being here and being part of the response we have to put together to combat Zika.
So far, nearly 1,900 cases of Zika have been confirmed across the United States. Here, as you know, in Wynwood, we have seen the first cases of local transmission of the virus. And we are doing, as I heard, a lot here in the county and in the city to try to reach out to get more people to come in and be tested, particularly pregnant women. Just yesterday, a father wrote to me telling me that his wife is 23 weeks pregnant, and they were alarmed to discover that her office is in Wynwood. And of course, we told them to come here, come somewhere, get tested. Don’t be scared. Get informed. Find out, as I just heard from a woman that I met just a few minutes ago who is four months pregnant – find out what to do. Her test was negative, but there are additional precautions that need to be taken going forward to ensure a healthy baby.
Just today, we heard the heartbreaking news that a baby girl born with Zika-related birth defects died in Houston. And so this is a serious challenge, and one that we need to be mobilized to address before it expands even further.
I first learned about Zika last December. My daughter, who has a PhD in public health, was also pregnant at the same time. And she’s the first one who said, ‘This is a serious problem,’ following the data from Brazil and South America. And she said, ‘We need to get ahead of this disease because it’s particularly dangerous for women, pregnant women, and their children.’ That’s why, after hearing this from my daughter, I sent two of my close aides on a fact-finding mission to Puerto Rico, where more cases had developed. And as we know, the government there is under so much financial pressure, how were they going to deal with the challenge of Zika? I wanted to learn more and figure out what we could do to help Puerto Rico, and what we could do more generally across our country.
Right now the most important thing is to follow the guidelines posted at cdc.gov/zika. And I repeat that because especially for the press, we don’t want to unduly alarm people. We want people to become informed. And so please encourage your viewers, your readers, your listeners, to go to cdc.gov/zika.
But we also need to get more resources and treat this as the public health challenge that it is. And that means we’ve got to have the funds that can then trickle down, Mayor, to the county here, can trickle down to the health center here, that everybody can be working together to combat and prevent the spread of Zika.
I am very disappointed that the Congress went on recess before actually agreeing on what they would do to put the resources into this fight. And I really am hoping that they will pay attention. In fact, I would very much urge the leadership of Congress to call people back for a special session and get a bill passed, get a bill that is focused on combating Zika passed. Then health departments, local and state governments, everybody will know that there are resources coming for it, and they will be able to take action to try to prevent that.
So I’m asking the Republican leaders in the House and the Senate to call Congress back into session immediately and to pass the bipartisan funding bill that the Senate passed. The Senate passed a bill. And unfortunately, a different bill was passed in the House, and no agreement could be reached before they went out on recess. So pass the bipartisan bill from the Senate, or come up with a new compromise that does the same and, in fact, tries to get those resources moving as quickly as possible.
I disagree with those who say that Zika is an insignificant issue. My opponent in this race, his campaign officials have said that, and I think that does a grave disservice because when you come here to a health clinic that is working so hard to get people to come in, to get tested, working with the health departments, working with sanitation departments, working with people to try to go after and prevent a population of mosquitoes from growing, this is something we need to take seriously, and I certainly do.
If we pass this critical funding, we can develop rapid diagnostic testing and treatment, and even begin the hard work of developing a vaccine. And we shouldn’t rest until we get that done. This is always a problem on the brink of a public health challenge that hasn’t happened to you. It hasn’t happened to somebody you know. It’s hard sometimes to get people mobilized. But this is an epidemic that will only grow and affect more people.
I really appreciate something that – when we were discussing with the doctors and administrators, Dr. Marty said, if you prevent yourself from being bitten by a mosquito, you prevent a mosquito from reproducing. So everybody has a role in this. You may not be a pregnant woman or even any longer possibly being a pregnant woman. But you could be a person bitten by a mosquito, and you can then have it transmitted to you or transmitted to someone from you. So everybody has a stake in this, and that’s really why I’m here, to underscore that.
We don’t want to wake up in a year and read so many more stories about babies like the little girl who just died in Houston. That is just not something we should tolerate in our country. So again, I want to thank the staff here and their partners – the university, FIU and University of Miami and others – who I are really focused on this.
And I also just want to underscore, we need a public health system that really works for everybody because with changes in climate, more and more diseases are going to find their way right here to the United States that before, we did not see. With mobility as easy as it is around the world, as we saw with Ebola, diseases are going to find their way here. So this is one of the canaries in the mind. If we don’t deal with Zika, we will have consequences. But if we don’t deal with the bigger issue of making sure we have the premier public health system in the world, which is what we should be providing for the people who live in our country, and it will then set the gold standard for what happens everywhere else, we’re missing a great opportunity to keep our people healthy and to deal with a lot of the diseases that, unfortunately, are going to be coming our way.
So again, let me thank everyone here at the center, and thank all of you for coming today. And thank you for the work you do every day to keep people healthy. Thank you all.”