What we’re witnessing in Italy with the coronavirus crisis seems to bear this out.
We’d hoped we’d be starting to see, through the coronavirus measures implemented two weeks ago, a leveling off of cases and deaths. But it hasn’t happened. If anything, it seems as though the coronavirus reach is expanding and accelerating. Consider the numbers that we digested during last night’s news. Keep track of official numbers here.
5,986 new coronavirus cases (in 24 hours)
627 fatalities (in 24 hours). The President of Lombardy believes this is even an understatement.
620 healthcare workers infected (in 48 hours).
The remaining doctors and nurses are working impossible shifts. Many don’t eat or drink during the entirety of a day because if they remove their masks, they don’t have a new replacement mask. That’s how low supplies are running. Others refrain from going to the bathroom (how do they manage that?) because of the breach in their protective gear and making themselves more vulnerable to the contagion.
We watched an in-depth news story on Italian television two nights ago. One interviewed healthcare worker had an angry rash on his face from not being able to remove his mask for so many hours. He is just one of many having this problem.
Why is Italy’s death rate so high?
In Lombardy, which is the region most acutely affected, the healthcare system is beyond strained. The flood of sick people can’t be attended to or triaged as quickly as needed. Add to that many people who wait until their symptoms are severe before they seek help.
A perfect storm requires even stricter coronavirus measures.
Lombardy is Italy’s most populous and affluent region. To onlookers outside of Italy, the region seems to be bearing the brunt of this pandemic. Maybe this is because of the concentration of people and their continued movements. Buses, trains, and metros have still been operating. People have still been gathering privately. Is the Italian government’s reticence to really and fully restrict movement and gathering contributing to the virus’s continued spread?
Coronavirus cases and spread are ramping up in other regions.
Lombardy is grabbing all the headlines because of the massive numbers of new cases and fatalities. But, while other regions may be lagging, their curves are frightening to me. Was it a week ago that Umbria (one of the least populated regions) had just twenty (20) coronavirus cases? Now it’s bumping up against 400.
I watched Dr. Deborah Birx being interviewed yesterday. She was asked about Italy and what is happening here. Specifically, she was asked about Italy’s higher per capita hospital bed availability (under normal circumstances). I think the question was intended to ask about how an explosion of cases would bear out in the U.S., where the beds per capita were lower than Italy’s. She focused on Lombardy as being unique to the current lack of availability or beds and posited that the other regions wouldn’t have that problem. Though I hope I’m wrong, I’m afraid we’ll see similar strained resources outside of Lombardy. The acceleration in the curve acceleration is no surprise to me given that we know that innumerable people (many already having fevers and other symptoms) have poured out of the north on trains for areas in the south.
Now we know that Italy’s coronavirus measures haven’t gone far enough.
Last night we learned that being out of one’s home other than going to the grocery or the pharmacy will be a reason for prosecution. That means no solitary runs, no outdoor exercise. Sure, many people doing these things have been practicing abundant caution. But, other people aren’t, and in these times, that’s a risk that has to be removed.
What have we (Italy) learned about these last couple of weeks?
Restrictions of movement and gathering haven’t been enough, nor have they been diligently enforced.
Over a month ago we all were aghast at the draconian lockdown measures and enforcement in China. For the moment, let’s set aside focus on their “sitting” on this new virus for too long and not alerting the world. But they did blunt the tidal wave through these perceived-to-be drastic measures.
Why didn’t we learn from that? Why aren’t other countries learning from China’s ultimately effective efforts and Italy’s failure to get serious more quickly?
Compliance with lockdown measures has been less than robust.
Many Italian residents did take this seriously at the get-go and hunkered down and were vigilant about staying put for all but the most essential matters (food, medicine). But others didn’t. They defied the restrictions, moving about, and gathering privately.
And, as indicated above, enforcement and communication of consequences have been stepped up in the last twenty-four hours. In fact, the news reported last night that the carabinieri had become aware that private graduation parties were being organized, and were issuing a stark warning that such gatherings will be broken up, by force if necessary, and involuntary manslaughter charges filed.
This illustrates what it takes to get people’s attention.
Just now, I took a short break to pour a glass of wine (yes, I’m allowing myself this mid-day pleasure during these surreal events). I stood at our kitchen window, looking down and watching a policeman stop a man in his car. The guy produced a bag and pulled out what looked like a prescription from the pharmacy. But, that didn’t appear to be enough (perhaps a ruse to be able to move about?), and the officer asked for the pharmacy receipt to confirm that he was on the up-and-up. The guy dug through his pockets and seemed to come up empty-handed. The officer then took down the guy’s information.
We’re settling in for the long haul.
Even with more stringent coronavirus measures now in place, the horse has long left the barn. We have some serious catching up to do. And we’ve had to prepare ourselves accordingly.
Yesterday, in anticipation of the implementation of further restrictions and closures, I did what I’d consider a massive grocery run (two bulging reusable grocery bags). I wrapped my face twice with a long scarf. I donned surgical gloves. I grabbed my iPhone so that I could use Apple Pay to avoid exchanging money or having to touch the little machine for credit cards and debit payments. Outside the grocery (fortunately just steps from our building entrance, I queued up (maintaining at least two-meter distance) with four other people to await being motioned inside.
My shopping took about fifteen minutes of consulting my carefully prepared list so as not to overbuy. I vigilantly dodged incoming people who threatened to encroach upon my safety distance. It didn’t take long for me to feel as though I was suffocating under my scarf. My reading glasses (which I donned to check that I was buying the right things) were constantly getting fogged up. By the time I was checking out and bagging my haul, I was on the verge of a claustrophobic anxiety attack. I staved it off by reminding myself that this run would allow me to stay put in our home for a solid week-to-two-weeks.
As I write this post, I do so with the news of the death of a grocery cashier in Brescia. It’s a sobering reminder of how the people who are serving us in this coronavirus crisis are putting themselves in harm’s way.
What can I do to not give in to despair during this pandemic?
I have no idea how Italy will emerge when this crisis abates. Putting one foot in front of the other in the face of such dire news and uncertainty seems, at times, impossible. So, I shift my attention to what I CAN do:
Stay informed, but restrict myself to smaller, scheduled windows of checking for updates.
Stay away from my iPhone and iPad. Well, at least keep them out of reach for longer periods of time.
Stay constructive. I’ve been working on a large canvas. I now have the opportunity to dive in and lose myself in it. When I’m painting, I’m back in the moment. The heaviness of the coronavirus crisis temporarily falls away, and I find rest for my soul.
Stay connected to the people I love. Like food, this is essential for my total well being. I’m using FaceTime and Skype more than ever. Each time I have a virtual face-to-face check-in, my sanity returns and I feel grounded.
Stay hopeful. But don’t confuse that with wishful thinking. I believe wishful thinking by our leaders and our peers has kept us from digesting the hard, necessary realities. Still, that doesn’t mean we have to surrender to despair. It’s hard for anyone to imagine what life will be like on the other side of all this. But I do allow myself the luxury of zooming to a future point in time when we’re looking back and saying, “We survived and we’re stronger and better for what we’ve learned.”
Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, Jed! Hope ya’ll are doing ok… considering the circumstances. Love you, Beverly
Thanks, dear Beverly. We’re staying strong and safe (as we can). Hoping for the tide to turn soon to give us more hope! Love you toon, Jed
We are all looking for our canvases, Jed! Beautiful idea to immerse oneself in things that occupy fully in the moment instead of in the dread. You are a blessing! Stay healthy and continue to give your insights! I hang on them now.
Thanks, Teri. It’s oh so easy to be sidelined or immobilized by tragedy. But, beauty can still exist in the midst of it all. Let’s all keep encouraging and holding one another up. I always love hearing from you. Stay strong and safe! Jed
Jed, thanks again for your words coming from the “front lines” of the crisis. Here in Germany, (and everywhere I suppose) the reaction was not a rapid as it should have been, very few are moving. My last visit to a grocery store was eerily different from just 24 hours earlier. Just a handful of shoppers vs a crowded, almost Christmas time shopping load.
Hang tough brother, I am looking forward to reading your writings on the other side of this Pandemic. Hopefully earlier rather than later.
It’s always great to hear from you, Chip. Reality is changing before our eyes. Every day seems to bring something new. Thanks for encouraging me to focus on life “on the other side.” We’ll get there and we’ll have learned volumes. Keep staying safe, my friend. Jed
Thank you Jed for your updates. We only emailed a couple times but my wife and I are looking to move to the Arezzo area once we retire in a couple years. I pray for Italy and you to be safe through all this and looking to soon be a part of this beautiful country!! Viva Italia!!
Prego, Bill. Thank you for your prayers and I look forward to staying in touch as you move towards retiring in Arezzo. We have a home not far from Arezzo (only 40 minutes) and I suspect we will be spending more and more time there. Let’s hold the vision of meeting up and celebrating that we all survived this current crisis and are somehow better for it! Jed
As has been my usual habit Jed, I will share this with my friends. Your first hand accounts are so valuable and have been key to the way we are approaching things in our daily life. We are so much more aware because of your meticulous honesty and candor. I cannot believe that a friend actually asked me just today, “ why are things so bad in Italy?” Maybe she should watch something other than Fox news! I referred her to your blog. Supermarkets here are places of high anxiety and we live on genteel Olde Cape Cod. We have a mixture of careful people who follow the rules and dumb, un-educated (by choice) people who don’t. It’s a total crapshoot. Keep in keeping sir. You’re the Main Man!
Thanks, Lynn, for writing and sharing my view from “over here” with your friends. Keeping people abreast from the front lines and sharing what we’re all learning gives me even greater purpose with my blog. Until now, I didn’t realize how important having this platform could be.
It sounds as though you are being vigilant and realistic. Brava! Others, unfortunately, reside in wishful thinking and only go to sources that enforce that, often to their detriment. Let’s hope and pray that more people wake up and act more quickly and decisively. Stay safe and strong! Jed
Thank your sister in Wilmington for leading us, her friends in Portland, OR, to you and your source of information.
I will, Micheal! She is one of my strongest advocates and best cheerleaders. I’m so grateful that she is helping to get the word out and I hope everyone is finding the posts informative, useful, and realistic (and not sensationalized).
Stay safe! Jed
Thinking about you always, and thank you for this post and your others.
It IS hard to digest it all let alone “sit” with it. In San Francisco most are abiding by the requests. Businesses are being shuttered, literally with plywood over their windows, and we are preparing for a similar enforcement on exercise and only necessary trips. There are still far too many cavalier individuals, who are not abiding by the rules.
With so many of my family members and friends in the medical profession, I worry about them immensely, as our protective gear is minuscule compared to that of Italy and China, and we too are running out. I pray for the people that deliver my groceries, and the garbage personnel, and all those who are working, (and at much lower wages), to keep us supplied with the essentials needs of daily life.
As a dear friend who had served as a nurse in WW2 said to me, “No matter what happens, there is always hope. Never loose sight of that.”
Sending blessings, love and a large dose of hope to you, your loved ones, and countrymen.
You said it so well, Karen. Endeavoring to digest what’s happening and not go crazy is no easy feat. This is unprecedented for us. Let’s hope people fast track themselves and the leadership of others for a stronger and more effective strategy, and lifestyle change (hopefully not drawn out). Here in Veneto factories are being re-purposed for making masks. That’s encouraging.
I pray that the U.S.can soon catch up and outrun the peak of this thing. I fear for those selfless people who treat those people infected, and for those people who serve us (in low paying jobs as you point out) for essential needs. As you say, may we continue to hope. Thanks for your love. Right back at you! Jed
Thank you for this post, Jed. You are very helpful spreading important facts. People need to realize the gravity of this situation. I feel some in the US are beginning to believe this can be happening. Others not.
Sending well wishes, dear Jed, Robin
Prego, Robin. From the copious feedback and support I’m receiving I do see that people are realizing that this is far from a bad flu situation. We’re all realizing that this is something that we’ve never experienced and our psyches are trying to assimilate and adjust. Keep the faith, Robin. xoxox Jed
Yes, I am living in Palermo, Sicily. We are in it together.
Stay safe, Jude, and stay strong!
Thank you for writing an informative piece about a horrific situation, while still remaining positive! Once again, you amaze me. Stay strong and please share your canvas when completed!!
You’re most welcome, Sue. Instead of feeling helpless, it helps to feel as though my platform can somehow reach and inform people to take precautions and be smarter. Let’s hope we all rise together more unified than ever. xoxox Jed
Jed this post un-nerved me. I just want to hug you. I know you are scared. It’s a crazy time we are living in. You are in my prayers and heart. Stay strong dear friend. You are so loved.
Steph, I feel your presence with me. Thank you. Soon I will turn on the news, with fingers crossed, and hope for any sliver of encouraging news. I’ll stay strong and I will continue to hope. Love you, Jed
Oh Jed, I myself, find that I am thinking….”do we need this or that at the grocery?”….where people here are still doing panic shopping. I choose not to go to town. Any mail I need to send can be sent without going to the post office. I have stamps and can print out priority labels. We had already decided not to go to the granddaughter’s baby shower….which is now cancelled.
But I worry about her, as she is a manager at one Wal-Mart and her husband is a manager at another. Both working over an hour and a half from home. They are exposed to so many people.
I participate by sharing links on at home things to share with friends and family with kids. Education and travel by computer.
I cringe when I read that our mayor has declared that our town can “control” the Corona virus. Wishful thinking on her part. And my feeling that she is delusional. We have gone from no probable cases to 5 in the last 2 days. But no one has said if they are being tested.
Hi Susan, I thought that buying eight cans of tuna for us was panic buying. Ha! Good or bad we have very few stores that encourage bulking buying. It’s also not in the mentality since Italians as a whole buy fresh. So, we don’t see people raking the entirety of a shelf off into a big shopping basket. Well, at least I haven’t witnessed that thus far.
I don’t know why some leaders think that somehow they can control such a contagious virus when others clearly haven’t, at least until it’s a much bigger issue. Let’s hope and pray people can practice extreme caution and remain reasonably out of harm’s way. xoxox Jed