New York City’s public advocate, in a policy report released Wednesday at City Hall, urged additional steps from state and city agencies to protect New Yorkers from the Zika virus.
Letitia James said she wants the state Department of Health to increase and expand its distribution of free Zika protection kits to reach more low-income and homeless people. In March, 20,000 kits, which include insect repellent and condoms, were made available in an action plan unveiled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
City officials have said the mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted virus could potentially become a large local threat because New York is home to and hosts many people from harder-hit areas such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
James also wants the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to issue Zika warnings to travelers at area airports and asked the state Medicaid program to cover mosquito repellent.
The Port Authority spokeswoman said the agency works with both state health departments as well as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said there is a quarantine center at the Kennedy and Newark airports.
Deputy State Health Commissioner Brad Hutton said the free Zika kits were meant for pregnant women who had traveled or had partners who had traveled to at-risk countries. With components that can be purchased at any drug store, the kits are intended as an educational campaign not to protect a broad population, he said. The state Medicaid system is considering coverage of repellent, he said.
City officials said at an event Tuesday that most people testing positive for Zika in New York City were infected by mosquitoes while traveling to Zika-affected areas, and the most recent CDC review noted 420 positive cases of Zika in the city.