Are we waking up too late to the silent spread of the coronavirus?

Italy has been on lockdown but trains are still carrying people south.

And most probably the coronavirus with them. Yes, even though the train schedules have been cut back, last night (March 13), a train from Milan to Palermo was packed. What gives? We’re mandated by law to stay locked down in our houses, yet people continue to board trains and possibly contribute to the silent spread of the coronavirus. My rational mind tries to compute this kind of giant loophole amidst an effort to stem the tide of this highly contagious virus. Granted, the train schedules have been cut back dramatically. But people, many who don’t really understand the severity of this moment in time, just want to flee the north where the spread of the coronavirus seems off the charts.

The Italian government, in my opinion, has some serious explaining to do.

Asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus are contagious.

In fact, a person may be most contagious before showing symptoms and in the very early stages of symptoms. In an article from Science News (read the full article) a study done in Germany reveals just that. Of course, additional confirmatory studies need to be done, but if there is even a ghost of a chance that this is true, we could already be well behind the eight-ball. That would explain why Italy is under siege at this moment. Can humanity risk, hoping through wishful thinking, that asymptomatic contagion isn’t the case?

“Coronavirus is most contagious before and during the first week of symptoms. People stop making infectious virus once the body’s antibody response kicks in.” —

Testing only after pronounced symptoms may be missing a key source of the spread of the coronavirus

We’re playing catch-up here in Italy. While many more tests have been done per capita in Italy as of late (826 per one million people*), South Korea, whose cases are starting to level out, has done dramatically more (3,692 per one million people*). This demonstrates that an accelerated testing curve can help reveal the true extent of the spread of coronavirus in a country. It can help powers that be to not be driving blind.

Thankfully, the U.S. is lighting a fire under making tests more widely available and expeditious. But, like in  Italy, unless you have been showing clear, pronounced symptoms or have been in close contact with a person known to be infected, the chances of getting a test are vastly diminished. In my opinion, therein lies a BIG problem, since many infected people with robust immune systems are asymptomatic, risking the spread of coronavirus to other people. And, in a country like Italy, where families and generations are tightly knit (often under the same roof) older parents and grandparents, with weaker immune systems, can end up being infected.

“The disease may be mild for some individuals – but that doesn’t mean they’re not contributing to it spreading in the community.” Professor Howard Forman, Yale University

(source – “Coronavirus—Can the US catch up on testing?”)

The shift from thinking “I could get this from other people” to “I could give this to other people.”

I admit, my first thoughts, when the spread of the coronavirus became more apparent, were of protecting myself. Then I realized that given my recent travels, and the fact that we reside in Northern Italy, I easily could have come in contact with someone contagious. I’ve been dealing with the onset of seasonal allergies as things start blooming, and that aggravates the slight asthma I have. The result is a pesky cough and some post nasal drip and chest congestion. But am I 100% certain it’s allergies? Could it be coronavirus? Probably not, but I really don’t know and given the current triage going in Italy with so many unmistakably sick people, no doctor is going to agree to give me a test. So, I’ve been shifting my perspective to assuming that I AM positive and contagious, and acting accordingly to protect other people. It may sound extreme but, in the absence testing, isn’t it the prudent thing to do? I think so. I certainly don’t want to be a contributor to the silent spread of coronavirus.

*stats source – Vox



By |2020-03-14T19:57:51+01:00March 14th, 2020|Healthcare in Italy, News in Italy|20 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. royane mosley April 2, 2020 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed, I am so pleased to receive notices of your blog again, I have not seen it in months and was worried you had dropped it. Be safe . We are not just getting the counts of the virus and deaths growing in Florida. I have to say we are happy we did not make it back to our little casa in Pisticci, Italy, but sure miss it. Fingers crossed we can get back by fall. Royane Mosley

    • Jed April 3, 2020 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Royane. It’s so nice to hear from you and to know that you are safe in Florida. Italy still seems like a verifiable disaster but we’ve been in strict lockdown for over two weeks now (here in Treviso, longer) and we believe we’re starting to witness a leveling off of new cases. I’m afraid much of the U.S. is well behind us and will be soon experiencing a similar onslaught. Hopefully not. Hopefully, a “game-changer” will emerge soon in the form of a viable therapeutic treatment! My advice: Go well beyond what your state government is dictating. You’ll sleep better and you’ll be glad you did a few weeks from now! Stay safe! Jed

  2. Michele DeMaio March 16, 2020 at 6:26 pm - Reply
    “The Piazza del Duomo is empty, and Italians will play instruments out their windows tonight in a nationwide concert.” How beautiful is that ..celebrare lo spirito italiano.
    Rimanere forte!

    • Jed March 16, 2020 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing the link, Michele!

  3. Elizabeth Skinner Zuercher March 16, 2020 at 2:46 am - Reply


    Take care of yourself and your family/friends! Be safe and let me know how you are! I’m sending my best wishes for a quick return to your favorable or normal Italian settings or “home”.. Hopefully, the cure for this will be found soon!

    Beth Skinner Zuercher

    • Jed March 16, 2020 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Beth. We’re doing what we can to stay sane and safe. It’s not always easy when the news keeps reporting an accelerating case and death rate. If you have a chance to read Nancy LaMaster’s beautifully articulated comments, please do. You stay safe as well! xoxox Jed

  4. angela March 15, 2020 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    You’re so “wise”! As always generous of heart. Thank you Jed.

    • Jed March 16, 2020 at 11:14 am - Reply

      Thank you, Angela. We all have to hold each other up, don’t we? Panic can be ignited so easily, as we’re seeing in many places. Panic can be immobilizing or it can cause people to rush into action that isn’t for the greater good. I hope we all learn from this and are somehow better and wiser for having lived through this. Stay safe!

  5. Teri Brooks March 15, 2020 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    You are keeping me sane in a whirling world, Jed. I have always appreciated your powerful admonishments (as I took them!) to notice the beauty and joy around me and to find and work on the beliefs established early in life that prevent me from doing so.

    Now I appreciate your overwhelming calmness and sense of serenity in the chaos. Thank you for your lifetime of work, Jed. Many people were listening, quietly.

    Teri Brooks

    • Jed March 16, 2020 at 11:09 am - Reply

      Thanks, Teri, for your gracious comments. I often wonder if by writing it’s a way to remain calm rather than letting swirling thoughts knock me back. And staying calm here in Italy these days is a day-by-day thing. Keeping a level head, not going into freakout mode, and doing what we know we can is essential, I believe. I’ll keep writing and sharing as life transforms before our eyes. The world seems to be resetting itself. We will come out on the other side of this, but we will be forever changed. Stay safe my friend. xoxox Jed

  6. Charlene March 15, 2020 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    I am going to adopt that attitude. To avoid any spreading of the virus just assume you have it and act appropriately. Good plan!

    • Jed March 15, 2020 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Just learning from mass testing in South Korea that the highest rate of infection in 20-29. That’s really sobering.

  7. Sheila Bauer March 15, 2020 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Great post Jed. San Diego has closed schools, museums and even the zoo (not sure that’s happened before) which will hopefully slow the spread. Not too many identified cases here yet, but it’s only a matter of time. John is working from home as much as possible, but since I am a nurse in a hospital that’s impossible for me. The good news is that I’m used to washing my hands a zillion times a day! Stay safe and we hope to see you in Italy soon.

    • Jed March 15, 2020 at 4:55 pm - Reply

      Good to hear from you, Sheila. Please stay as safe as possible. Yes, hope to see you in Italy soon!

  8. Tony March 15, 2020 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I know how your allergies hit you and I’m praying that is all you have. Stay strong!

    • Jed March 15, 2020 at 4:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Tony. More information is emerging daily, as you know. Maryann’s husband just wrote me that in South Korea where they have done mass testing the highest rate of infection is in ages 20-29. If that is true here in Italy, that would explain a lot since that is the group that was slow to adopt caution. Just days ago many such young people were hanging out together in bars (and yes, older people too). And people think it’s a head-scratcher as to you this has been spreading.

      • Chip Meeks March 16, 2020 at 9:09 pm - Reply

        Good words Jed. With my herniated disk since last August, I have been home bound since then and seldom leaving the house, sometimes sleeping 12-19 hours a day. I had a successful operation in early Feb, and now this! I walk most places (as I imagine y’all do too, and today‘s shopping trip I was surprised at how full the stores were, ages 6-85 out shopping,… in mass! While I didn’t touch anyone, and brought my own bag, who touched the items I bought before me,…and the money I used to pay or the change I received? The store does have hand sanitizers at the entry/exit point. I have no family „nearby“ so that’s one less thing to worry about, young or old. Keep taking care of yourself!!-Chip

        • Jed March 18, 2020 at 2:12 pm - Reply

          Good to hear from you, Chip. Sorry about the herniated disk sidelining you, even within your own home to some extent (I would imagine). Keep staying safe and keep me posted!

  9. Jill March 15, 2020 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Good on you Jed.

    We are fine here in Umbria and all following the rules, Our fingers, when not tightly crossed, are getting frequent washing. Everyone is still good humoured and courteous and as far as I know, the grocery stores well stocked. I’m glad to be in Italia with Italians during this terrible time.

    • Jed March 15, 2020 at 12:59 pm - Reply

      Good to know, Jill. Here, too, people are showing their best selves. It’s strange and surreal though to look out and see deserted streets instead of a normally vibrant city. Stay safe!

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