An op-ed in today’s Washington Post suggests Maryland should consider a “dramatic reduction in public-safety regulations” to help ease the spread of Zika in the state.
This, as Maryland’s Public Health Department and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have already warned of a significant uptick in Zika-related infections in the wake of the first cases of the virus reported in the U.S. on Sunday.
The article comes at a time when Maryland has faced severe criticism from the Trump administration and state leaders who say the state is failing to act on Zika in a way that can help stem the spread.
On Monday, the U,S.
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report finding that the Maryland Health Department has not provided adequate resources for Zika response and that state leaders have failed to take steps to limit the spread and prevent transmission of the Zika virus.
Maryland’s Department of Public Health issued a statement to the Post Monday saying it “will continue to work with state and federal partners to address the health and safety challenges posed by the Zika pandemic and will be transparent in its progress.”
“It is not surprising that the state’s leaders are now considering ways to cut costs and delay the impact of a pandemic that is affecting so many people,” the statement said.
“We need to get a handle on the threat and how best to respond, not just how much we can save.”
Maryland officials have also argued that it is not their job to regulate how states manage the pandemic.
“We do not have the regulatory power to regulate a new disease that is not here yet, but we can and we will do our part to make sure Maryland has the tools necessary to prepare for the pandemics that are now unfolding,” Dr. Jonathan D. Shulman, MD, MPH, MD-PhD, assistant director of the Maryland Division of Health Services, said in a statement.
“It is our job to make a decision that is best for the people of Maryland and Marylanders, not for some arbitrary federal agency.”
The Trump administration has already called on Maryland to reduce its public-health regulations, with Maryland Health Commissioner Dr. Mark C. R. McKeon saying in September that the agency has not been doing enough to help states with Zika-prevention efforts.
Since then, Maryland has added a public-private partnership to help manage the spread in the country, as well as announced it will begin vaccinating residents with Zika virus in the coming days.