Italy Reaches Critical Mass with the Coronavirus Crisis

Hospitals and medical services are struggling to keep up.

That’s the story of the coronavirus crisis that we’re waking up to here in Italy. Lombardy hospitals and doctors are at their max, and probably well past it. Bergamo, one of my favorite, picturesque towns in the province particularly is struggling.

I’ve been remaining mostly calm, though I have moments of despair when I’m crumbling under the avalanche of discouraging news. If only there was something encouraging, a real light at the end of the tunnel, I’d have more wind in my sails. Today, when I did my morning check-in to see how the situation is unfolding I came across this article with the following headline:

“Italy’s coronavirus disaster: At first, officials urged people to go out for an aperitif. Now, doctors must choose who dies” — ABC News Australia

Does any part of this sound familiar to you?

I’m mostly speaking to my English speaking friends in the UK or in The States. And I’m talking specifically about what I perceive as irresponsible behaviors that encourage people to get out and have a drink or go to a restaurant. Just over two weeks ago the leader of Italy’s Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, went out for an aperitif and a light dinner while encouraging Italians to avoid “destroying life or spreading panic.” Nine days later Zingaretti tested posted for the coronavirus, and a wide swath of people who came into contact with him were quarantined.

Some people may be thinking that I’m an alarmist. Well, I am sounding the alarm and I’ve been trying to do so for my followers (and people who stumble across my blog). I’m trying to raise awareness when I see people stumbling down the same path that led Italy to where it is right now, and that is a very scary place to be. While I continue to keep myself from panicking, it doesn’t escape my notice that if I were to get sick (not just with coronavirus) my access to treatment might be zilch or close to it.

When I hear that hearses are lining up at cemeteries and crematoriums are running around the clock in Lombardy, I really snap to attention. I’m not purposely trying to scare people, but I am trying to shake them and say “Take this seriously!” Just yesterday, I felt my ire rising when I saw photos of crowded beaches in Clearwater, Florida, and bars full of people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I remember how similar gatherings were occurring here in Italy a couple of weeks ago in spite of grave warnings. If only we could go back in time.

The coronavirus crisis doesn’t respect borders.

I can’t conceive of the mental trickery a person employs to think that they somehow have a different, stronger immunity to this highly contagious virus. We’re seeing curves similar to Italy’s playing out all over the world. Yet why are people so slow to action? Why even take the time to entertain that this is some kind of liberal media smear campaign? Why chance anything in this unprecedented situation?

The coronavirus trend in Italy at the end of this week is critical.

That’s because the country will have been under the lockdown for fifteen days, the supposed “outside” window of going from being infected to showing symptoms. The estimated average is four to five days, but Italy has to look at the longer odds. I pray that we see a leveling out of cases which will be an indication that the lockdown indeed is having an effect. If so, then hopefully the death rate will follow suit. THEN, maybe the hospitals can catch up and manage subsequent cases more effectively.

Yes, we hope. But…

Many Italians still aren’t heeding the lockdown.

GRRR!!!! It was reported yesterday that the police issued around 8,000 fines to people who were caught being out-and-about without a sanctioned reason (food shopping, pharmacy, bank, some jobs). These fines can also come with three months in jail and a permanent mark on a person’s criminal record. You’d think those things would be sufficient deterrents, but I guess not. And, just minutes ago I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, looked out the window, and saw a guy out jogging like nothing was going on.

I get it. Giving up our normal routines and activities is not something we’ve really had to do for any real length of time. And, people naturally resist and protest giving up these freedoms. It’s painful.

Accept prolonged inconvenience. The alternative is far worse.

If there’s any strong message I’d like to leave you with, it’s this. I’ve said this multiple times already: let Italy’s response, which was arguably too slow in the beginning, be a valuable lesson to you. If there’s anything you can do to avoid being in a coronavirus crisis of the same magnitude, please do it, and don’t just wait to be told by your government!

And, an important “Thank You”

In the midst of all this, I have been buoyed by your support and concern. It’s easy to go stir crazy and to let my mind fall into an endless tumble of worrying. Your warm words, you’re checking in with me to make sure we’re safe and healthy keep me grounded and hopeful that, while this daunting situation seems endless, we will somehow weather it and emerge smarter and more united as a species.

My best to you all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-03-18T13:20:04+01:00March 18th, 2020|News in Italy|36 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

36 Comments

  1. Cyndi March 19, 2020 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Your blog is always wonderful, and I read it with great appreciation. But, I hope you realize how impactful your recent posts have been. You got my attention, and changed my approach to the current situation. Thank you so much. I hope you and your loved ones continue to be healthy and safe.

    • Jed March 19, 2020 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Grazie, Cyndi, for your kind and encouraging words. Writing about my experience and what we are learning on a daily basis helps me feel as though I’m doing something constructive versus just fretting. This morning I found a small glimmer of hope in a story about mass testing in the town of Vo (not too far from us) and how they, through the identification of asymptomatic carriers, were able to bring new infections to zero. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/18/scientists-say-mass-tests-in-italian-town-have-halted-covid-19
      Stay well and safe! And keep the faith! Best, Jed

  2. Cris-Annette March 19, 2020 at 12:59 am - Reply

    Thoughts and prayers to all that you are facing and going through right now. This is definitely real!!! Thank you so much for your urgent advice and warnings to us. God bless.

    • Jed March 19, 2020 at 10:23 am - Reply

      Thank you for writing and for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. We await some light that will give us hope that the increasingly strict and necessary lockdown measures are paying off. This article about Vo, one of the first afflicted towns in Italy, and how mass testing helped them identify asymptomatic carriers and act accordingly is, in my opinion, a cause for hope if broader scale testing could be more available. I’m hoping the city of Treviso will somehow be able to do the same once new cases start leveling off.
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/18/scientists-say-mass-tests-in-italian-town-have-halted-covid-19

  3. Robin March 18, 2020 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Hey Jed,
    I really appreciate you emphasizing the importance of the lockdown. We are fortunate to live “extremely” isolated, and I know others in cities/ towns do not have freedom of movement on their own property.
    I just know this is so important to isolate, and flatten the rise of those infected.
    Sending you well thoughts. XXo Robin

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      Ciao Robin, many people are to be lauded for their vigilance in being protective and smart about all this. Others can be a bit relaxed, which none of us can afford in this crisis with such potentially grave consequences. I keep saying “Better safe than sorry!” I’m glad you and Markus are playing it safe.

  4. Joy Snipes March 18, 2020 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Jed. I have no words to add to these excellent comments, but I am glad that I get to read them and also glad that so many folks truly care for their fellow man. Love you, Jed! To you and your family and friends, please stay safe and healthy. Take care.

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      I so love hearing from you, Joy. I too am heartened by so many people’s outpouring of support for others. May we all rise stronger and more compassionate as a result of this. Love you! Jed

  5. Nancy March 18, 2020 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed. Happy you are hanging in up there…as we are here. I have to differ with you on one point. I was watching TV last night — RAI one. And they said exercising was fine outside ALONE. I can’t really sit here in this apartment for months…which is what it is likely to be…i need exercise for my health. And because I have a recent knee replacement I cannot afford to sit immobile. So I’ve been walking. I head straight out of town and onto the farm roads, I never see a soul, no way I could never infect someone. I think common sense should prevail. I agree on all your other points. The large part of the US is not taking it seriously. And I’m hoping things turn around here soon….. andrà tutto bene!

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Nancy, for this clarification. We’ve been of the understanding that we can leave the house only if absolutely necessary. But, as I wrote in response to Glen, outdoor exercise, as I have personally observed (not just of the guy I saw running yesterday), is yet another manifestation of people not fully practicing this safely and not endangering other people. I would take greater comfort knowing everyone was like you in diligently practicing social distancing while exercising!

  6. Michele DeMaio March 18, 2020 at 4:41 pm - Reply
    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 5:27 pm - Reply

      I love this video, Michele. I hope people will watch it and share it. I’m putting it on FB page now.

  7. Glen Mayne March 18, 2020 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    If a solitary person is out jogging he is no danger to himself or to others because there is no one to catch the disease if he had it and he is in no danger of catching the disease from others. What’s the point of arbitrarily enforcing a quarantine on solitary individuals who don’t come into contact with others. He’s in a moving quarantine.

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 5:24 pm - Reply

      Glen, to say definitively that a solitary runner is of no danger to himself or to others is, in my opinion, a dangerous assumption with a virus that is still not completely understood. Who can and will enforce their path, their social distancing? The man I saw running passed within two feet of a woman walking to the market with her bag. Airborne particles/droplets and a highly contagious virus aren’t a good combination. Running causes a person to breathe more forcefully. Do I want to be anywhere in the vicinity of someone who just breathed who-knows-what in the air, even if I enter the wake of his path seconds later? No, absolutely not. Seeing the toll this virus is taking on Italy, while testing isn’t widely available or applied, drives this home for me. Yes, better safe than sorry, not just for myself.

  8. Richard Devost March 18, 2020 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed, great advice and I share your frustration as in Canada many are treating this as a bigger problem overseas and not something that will make its way in any large scale mass into Canada. I have seen what it has done in China, what it is doing in Italy and other parts of the world and can only hope that those who their cavalier ways will soon catch on and self isolate.
    Like all pandemics this too will go away but at what cost.
    Hunker down, do the right thing and feel good about knowing that you’re intentions are both wise and helpful as to not contribute to increasing those numbers.
    Be well, stay safe,

    Respectfully,

    Richard Devost
    Canada

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 4:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Richard. Border controls really don’t exist for a virus. I’m afraid that viewing the news from the comfort of our homes creates a false sense of security, a false sense that it’s “way out there somewhere else.” I hope that we, as a species, ultimately utilize this as a wake-up call as to how to better ourselves, our preparations, and our preparedness for the future. I also hope we all learn to come together and tackle this as a world and not just as individual countries with different triage plans.
      Here’s to accelerating the learning curve and stemming the tide of this virus!Jed

  9. Andy March 18, 2020 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    As long as there are some `******`out there talking about ‘herd immunity’ or neglecting the danger of a ‘foreign’ virus, it will remain hard to convince the average person to take the pandemic serious…

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      Hi Andy, I’m so dismayed by the “noise” of the messages you mention and how unhelpful such labels and theories are. Unfortunately, many people aren’t on board with understanding the gravity of this situation. I hope they wake up soon and focus on preparedness and prevention.

  10. angela paladino March 18, 2020 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed. If you need a shoulder or virtual hug, we are here for you. Feeling quite helpless as I listen to interviews with doctors from Bergamo (NYT The Daily) and as I read your very important updates. Many of us in Arizona are practicing social isolation but others appear to be in denial. Mr. Trump and his loyalists made a bad situation worse by down=playing the danger via media and tweets. He has finally had what people are calling “a change of tone” and, hopefully, his followers will get on board to heed the CDC recommendations. Trust is a big concern for me. People here in our state may have their guard down because we have no testing. This leads people to feel we are in less danger than NYC and San Francisco because they are reporting only 9 positive cases for our entire state. With no data to back me up, my gut tells me this is not true representation and – if and when testing is available – many will be shocked to reality. It’s important that we hear from people first hand. Your posts are very important and you are doing your part by helping us to experience your reality. I’ll be watching for updates. xoxoxo ~ a

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      I know that, Angela, and thank you from the bottom of my heart. One thing this crisis is teaching me is to stay connected with people and to shore one another up. I’m also realizing, through speaking with my dear friend Novelia today that this is an important reminder to hold every day and every person as precious. It’s too easy to fall back into the stupor that life just goes on forever and we lose our attentiveness to the only reality there is: the present moment. Thanks for writing and for all your encouragement. xoxox Jed

  11. Tony March 18, 2020 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    I am definitely sharing and reiterating your message to everyone I can. We’ve been social distancing for a while now. Hoping and praying our hospitals are able to ready themselves and get the supplies they desperately need. Stay healthy and safe out there. There will be a light at the end of this tunnel. We have to hold out hope that we will see a better day.

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Tony. Getting the word out through my platform is the best way I know to do something useful and constructive while being strictly confined to our home. Yes, let all hope a light at the end of the tunnel begins to shine. Just today I was reading advice from a psychologist about shifting to imagining being months down the road and looking back and seeing that we survived all this. For me it helps to remember, as my mom would often say, “This, too, shall pass.” Stay safe!

  12. Joyce March 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Stay well and keep writing, Jed! I look forward to your posts and have learned a lot from you. Not only about the current, horrific situation in Italy and what we in the US might expect…but also about so many other things…really beautiful things. Buona salute!

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the encouragement to keep going, Joyce. Let’s hope we learn from this, and quickly. I look forward to shifting my focus back so many other things that are being eclipsed in the current environment. Stay safe! Jed

  13. Susan Geiger March 18, 2020 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Last night I realized that my reaction of cleaning was maybe a bit over the top, but definitely needed. I cleaned ceiling fans that haven’t been dusted since they were installed. Dust and grease bunnies everywhere.
    Today we are hauling my mare up to the vet for foaling out….something I prefer to let someone else supervise. She is also to be bred again (shipped semen) and I wonder if there will be problems with the overnight shipping….because of this virus. Breeding her again is not “essential” but it is already paid for.
    For now we are good here….some of the lucky ones with a full pantry and no paper shortages (without doing any hoarding shopping.)

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      Good to hear from you, Susan. Just this morning I, too, was a bit over the top cleaning in the kitchen. Right now, I just need to feel like I am doing something constructive vs. sitting and worrying. I hope all works out with the breeding of you mare. Shipping here in Italy seems still to be going well, and it is an important way for people to get things apart from the grocery and pharmacy. Keep in touch! xoxox, Jed

  14. Stephanie March 18, 2020 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Jed I just want to hug you. I’m going to try to share your post on Facebook. I hope people listen to your advice. Love you dear friend.

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      I can imagine and feel that hug. Let’s all keep helping each other through this in any way we can! Lots of love to you, Steph. Jed

  15. Malcolm March 18, 2020 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    This is a little deep for me to post publicly but Maybe it should be said

    Jed, with all of my heart I hope you and all of us find the strength to persevere through this most challenging time. As a product of the Catholic education system in Louisiana I can’t help but think we are being challenged by Deity. For each of us, how we handle this may determine how we come out on the far side of this. And if we take Deity out of this, we may be judged by our fellow humans as well. Those who continue to party and spread this virus will be judged, possibly by themselves. The young who disregard because of their immunity may find something just as bad at the end of this. Just imagine living the rest of your life with realization that you infected and killed your own parents.

    Malcolm

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      Yes, Malcolm, I think what you said is important to be heard and considered. Thank you for sharing what is, in my opinion, a very important and valuable perspective. Shifting from thinking about self-preservation to an understanding of the importance of considering other people’s well-being, and protecting them is essential. Thank you for sharing this! Jed

  16. Mark Hinshaw March 18, 2020 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    HI Jed, I’ve been following the data presented and updated each day in worldometers.info. If you look at the bar chart showing new cases each day, there is a glimmer of hope now present. For each of the past 3-4 days, the number of new cases has remained below 350, rather than continuing to increase exponentially as over the past month. So, while the absolute number of cases (and deaths) is still increasing, the rate is decreasing — which is a good sign that the curve may soon flatten. Of course, that merely extends it over a longer time. But it allows patients to be more easily accommodated and treated And that will eventually put a brake on the numbers. We are still talking months for the virus to play out. But I think the peak in Italy is not far off. Unfortunately for the U.S. the exponential curve has just begun and many more people will be affected.

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      Mark, thanks for your comments and your perspective. Let’s hope and pray that we indeed see a leveling-out trend after several more days. With the Italian health services so under strain right I’m a bit cautious (i.e. scared to be too optimistic) about the accuracy of the numbers. But, you give me a glimmer of hope that this isn’t still a house with a raging fire that shows no signs of slowing down! Keep us posted with your insights!

  17. Mallory Olson March 18, 2020 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. Unfortunately your words are too true! I work in surgery in a hospital in SW Michigan—management is just starting to get concerned. No testing kits. Starting to set up tents to assess.
    Kids are on spring break-still , many still traveling. This leads me to think we are all going to be affected—the elderly or sick to the extreme. And it doesn’t help to have such a absolute dumb-self centered egotistical person as president. Only nice words I can use.
    I know we don’t want to spread panic but we need to get really concerned soon. Thanks

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Mallory. I appreciate you sharing your comments being a person who works in healthcare. Your perspective carries a lot of weight in helping people to realize the gravity of this crisis and the surrounding circumstances. Keep me posted and stay safe as you can!

  18. Barbara Brown March 18, 2020 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    thank you for your wise words – Brooklyn Heights where I’m currently practicing social isolation seems to be adhering to same. all restaurants/bars/libraries/schools are shuttered. some restaurants offer delivery or pickup. have only been out to shop when necessary but am going for strolls in the hood to observe the coming of Spring. there are many here who seem to not be taking this as seriously and all I can say or do about that is to reinforce the importance of self isolation, as difficult as it is for all. will continue to keep you both (all) in my thoughts. xx Barbara

    • Jed March 18, 2020 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Barbara. I’m comforted to know that you’re practicing social isolation. I hope others will follow your lead before it lands on their doorstep, figuratively and literally. xoxox Jed

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