Rachel Glaser Reports
Less than two weeks after Lt. Governor Dan Patrick condemned President Obama’s guidelines on public bathroom use for transgender students, Patrick penned a letter to the President to ask for federal funding to help Texas fight off Zika.
“If the President wants to risk the health of pregnant women and all Texans because he wants to allow men in the bathroom then he ought to be impeached,” Patrick said.
Lt. Gov. Patrick said his turbulent relationship with President Obama should have no impact on his request for federal funds to combat the Zika virus in Texas.
A mosquito-borne virus, Zika is known to cause serious birth defects. Zika has been linked to miscarriages and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.
The virus has spread to 50 nations in the past year and experts expect Zika-carrying mosquitoes will arrive in Texas in the coming weeks.
“We’re saying ‘doing something, will you?’ The states need money, we need some money this has potential to be a health crisis, if not addressed,” Patrick said.
Texas does have a plan in place to contain a Zika outbreak, but without federal assistance, Patrick wrote, Texas could face “potentially devastating effects.”
Patrick said the state is in desperate need of federal funds to combat the Zika virus after recent floods in Texas.
Summer is about to start and the standing water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes, amplifies the risk of Zika in the state.
“I’m so frustrated with Washington, both parties quite frankly,” Patrick said.
President Obama asked Congress to come up with nearly $2 billion to battle the virus but efforts to finalize a funding bill for Zika prevention has reached a three-month standstill. Proposals from both the Senate and the House are far short of the Obama administration’s initial request for $1.9 billion to fight Zika
“The Senate comes up with a plan there, the House comes up with a plan—they are arguing over the money,” Patrick said.
Congress is expected to take up a funding bill for Zika prevention in Washington D.C. this week.
“By the time they figure this out summer will be gone,” Patrick said Texas can’t wait, Washington needs to act now.
“It would not be responsible if we weren’t addressing this issue with the seriousness that I think it deserves,” Patrick said Zika is one of his top priorities in the state right now.
The Texas Department of State Health Services confirms 40 travel-related cases of Zika in Texas.
In the letter Patrick wrote “it’s only a matter of time” before mosquitoes in Texas become infected with Zika and the virus is locally transmitted by mosquitoes in the state.
“I’ve talked to our researches, our scientists, our doctors over the last several months and it’s surely coming this way,” said Patrick.
State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and Jane Nelson, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, also signed the letter which was sent to the President and members of Congress.
At a State Senate committee hearing last month, John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said locally transmitted cases will likely start to pop up in Texas in June or July.
“We need help from the federal government, this is a national health issue,” Patrick said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 300 pregnant woman in the United States and its territories who may be infected with the Zika.
Patrick said governments must act now because this is just the beginning of the battle against Zika, in Texas and across the globe.