Which is Worse? The Coronavirus or the Blame Virus?

The latter certainly doesn’t help the former.

I woke up this morning, hoping to see that The President of the United States, in his address to the nation about the coronavirus, would have delivered a message that would speak to humanity as a whole. I’d hoped for a message that would say “We, the whole world, are in this together” rather than dubbing this a “foreign virus” and pointing an accusatory finger at Europe for not being quick to take more drastic measures. I’m not contesting Italy’s laggard efforts in being more decisive. If anything, in my previous post, The Coronavirus Chaos in Italy, was intended to say, “Learn from our mistakes.” 

This Sky News online article is an important cautionary tale (hint, hint): https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-scared-italians-finally-heed-call-to-stay-at-home-as-deaths-rise-11955061

Blame wastes time.

And it can be downright dangerous, especially for people who desperately want to believe that the coronavirus is really someone else’s problem. Assigning fault to something we don’t fully understand doesn’t help the situation. Lack of widespread testing is keeping all of us in the dark. And, here in Italy, we’re now realizing (yes, too late) that the coronavirus had been silently making a bigger mark for weeks. Now that more widespread testing is being made available, this is being borne out. Now we understand that many asymptomatic people had been carrying this around.

I have to remind myself that just two weeks ago, the situation here looked dramatically different. The coronavirus seemed limited and localized. Boy, were we wrong. I hope that somehow the virus will behave differently in The States and not explode as it has here. But don’t count on it and be complacent. The lower number of current U.S. cases (comparatively) is eerily familiar to life in Europe just two-to-three weeks ago.

Be concerned, be VERY concerned.

I can say this because this isn’t an intellectual exercise for me. I’m living smack dab in the middle of this. We’re restricted to staying in our home and are only permitted to leave for trips to the grocery, the pharmacy, and for work that can’t be performed from home. I go to sleep wondering if I have touched something that an asymptomatic person has touched or if I have breathed droplets from a contagious cough. I wake up in the middle of the night, asking myself if this is ticking away in me and will strike when the medical services are beyond capacity. I have mild asthma, and when seasonal allergies begin to strike (like now) I have a runny nose and pesky cough. You get the picture: plenty of fuel for paranoia.

Yesterday, I was talking with a person in The States who is very dear to me, and she said, “I’m not worried.” Oh no, I thought. This is what got us into trouble in Italy.

The danger of inaccurate information.

The President did cover some crucial medical advice in his address. For that, I’m happy—as long as people heed it and don’t get lax. But, there is one thing he said, in particular, that had me screaming at the screen, “No, no, no!” Trump said, “(For) The vast majority of Americans: the risk is very, very low. Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus.”

Yes, the risk seems to be generally lower for younger, healthier people, but here in Italy, there are ample cases of young, healthy people who’ve been smacked down by this virus. One of the earliest cases is a young, strapping man (over six feet tall) with no health conditions who just emerged (woke up, actually) yesterday from three weeks of triage (and ICU), asking where he was and what had happened. It’s true that the elderly and health-compromised are going to bear the brunt of the coronavirus, but make no mistake, young, healthy people are in danger, too.

No time for bragging.

Especially in times like these. To say “No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States” can instill false and unwarranted confidence in many people. From my vantage point, it can be viewed as one-upmanship that isn’t helpful when other countries are suffering. I challenge the above statement because coronavirus testing in the U.S. wasn’t widely available at the time when it was needed most. And, a whistleblower complaint is being investigated regarding healthcare workers not being given adequate training or protective gear when infected citizens were brought back from China and processed. Crowing about preparedness seems to me to be misplaced.

We need realism and honesty.

Painting a rosy picture of preparedness when a deeper dive (do your research) reveals that isn’t actually the picture, also instills false confidence, especially in people who are desperate to believe the coronavirus won’t touch them personally. The hard reality here in Italy is that even though thousands of people are being tested for coronavirus, to get a real handle on the problem at hand many more people should be tested. Right now, a person has to have pronounced symptoms to warrant a test. And that means that the cases that are either asymptomatic or attributed to a cold or the flu, remained undetected. That means the virus is circulating under the radar.

I hope that the U.S. somehow can ramp up testing and make it available to the majority of people, not just those who neatly fit the criteria of symptoms.

It’s time for everyone to step up.

I fear that by writing this post in response to The President’s address this will be perceived as politically motivated or skewed. It’s not. I will take all leaders to task who are slow to act or who don’t accurately and responsibly explain the reality and severity of this epidemic. I’m particularly critical of Italy’s leadership in its lukewarm implementation of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Italian residents, in my opinion, needed to be slapped harder and sooner, even as painful as that might have been. Sadly, the medicine is even more bitter now.

Demand that ALL people of influence, whatever their political affiliation, hop to it.

I hope that one thing we all learn through this pandemic is to not abdicate personal responsibility and blindly trust our governments and leaders to take care of us. It’s human nature to want to be assured that all will be well. But, what happens if we get assurances, only to have them dashed, again and again? Greater panic. I believe that has been happening far too much.

A message of compassion.

Yesterday also brought another message from an important world leader, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President. It didn’t paint a rosy picture. But what it did do for us here in Italy is tell us that we’re not alone.

“Europe suffers with Italy,” she said. “In this moment, in Europe we are all Italian … rest assured that this family, your family, will not let you alone.”

That is exactly what I needed to hear.

By |2020-03-14T19:16:30+01:00March 12th, 2020|Healthcare in Italy, News in Italy|30 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

30 Comments

  1. Nancy LeMaster March 15, 2020 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your personal comments along with insights and truths. Hopefully, the public will react appropriately and take this seriously but without panic. May we realize that we are a part of the entire world and we need to do what we can to help each other and the world. “Look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers told us. We need to find the truth tellers, the benevolent, the medical and scientific professionals, and each other. Let’s get through this together.

    Let us recognize that we must encourage those who continuously study and investigate the world around us. There are certainly many truths to be be discovered. This new version of Coronavirus is terrible and scary and has affected so many of us. But we must try not to let the fear overwhelm us. We must do what we can to the best of our abilities to keep living, loving, caring, and helping from a base of knowledge instead of fear.

    I am thankful for the scientists who provide factual information and make predictions based on those facts. I appreciate the medical and health care professionals who take care of us. The media, civil servants, economists, and politicians who provide us with important information have their parts to play. Educators and therapists give us knowledge, provide security, and help us deal with life. So many others make daily life possible. Let us keep good attitudes as we remember we are not alone and we do depend on each other even as we isolate from each other.

    Thank you again for your blogpost. It is good to hear how you are and what you are thinking and doing in this situation. Continue to be well and safe. Virtual hugs…

    • Jed March 16, 2020 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      Hi, Nancy. I love what you wrote. I hope my followers will read your words and take them to heart. Finding sanity and a path through this crisis takes joining together, as you say. Panic isn’t helpful, but being serious and honest is.
      You are a wise woman, and I so appreciate your message. A virtual hug right back at you! Jed

  2. Kathryn Smith March 13, 2020 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Jed, I find your blogs on coronavirus fascinating and sobering. I keep thinking of the “Spanish”.flu epidemic of 1918. Not taken seriously until it was way too late. And I think of the people living in refugee camps and border holding camps who already lack sanitation. This could ravage those places.

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      I hope this, at the very least, will be a wake-up call to humanity and governments to have better disaster-readiness plans. Many experts have been saying this kind of outbreak was coming and we wouldn’t be ready. Many people and companies are one disaster away from ruin. Personal and business contingency plans seem to be in short supply.
      You make a very important point, Kathryn. The weak and the disadvantaged often are the biggest victims in a crisis like this. Like the 1918 flu epidemic, it ravaged people in deplorable war conditions. I shudder to think about coronavirus tearing through refugee and border holding camps. And, healthcare. While Italy’s current system is taxed, people don’t have to worry about deductibles and impossible co-pays to get the medical attention that all people should be getting, especially in an epidemic. This will cause financial ruin for many people in other countries.

  3. Caroline McCall March 13, 2020 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Jed, so good to hear that you are well!!!! I have thought about you often, especially when I hear Italian updates on the COVID-19 spread. Stay safe!!!!! As I’m sure you know, today was eventful with the number of cancellations of large gatherings – sports, Broadway shows, Disney properties, local college classes, and many, many meetings, trade shows, etc. It certainly can’t hurt and surely will help to control the spreading to some degree. We even have no Episcopal or Methodist gatherings until at least March 30.

    Please keep us all posted on your life and be VERY careful as you move about!!!!!!

    Caroline

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      I’m so happy to hear from you, Caroline. Yes, we’re hanging in there and getting used to home confinement. We’re hoping to see the explosive rise of coronavirus cases in Italy blunted after a few weeks of such restricted movement and interaction. I will keep everyone posted!

  4. Katherine Martin March 13, 2020 at 4:44 am - Reply

    As always you speak truth. I am working at St James Place in Baton Rouge where the average age of the 400 residents is 84. We have been working diligently to isolate the 52 acre facility from exposure. We are serious about our efforts in great part because of your commentary.
    Stay well and know you are in my heart and prayers.
    Katherine

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      My dear Katherine, thanks for writing and for your concern and prayers. I’m glad to know you’ve been ramping up efforts at St. James Place. I’m fearful that many people and companies will be slow to act, missing a key window of opportunity. Believe me, loads of people here are kicking themselves for not taking this seriously earlier when there was more breathing room. I’m hunkered down, rarely leaving our flat in downtown Treviso. Fortunately, there is a grocery within a short distance and they’re enforcing social distancing pretty strictly. I carry hand sanitizer (made at home following an approved online recipe for its effectiveness) and am becoming obsessive about using it after touching anything out in public.
      I’ll keep everyone posted. Hopefully, the tide will turn before long and I’ll have some encouraging news to report. Stay safe. xoxox Jed

  5. Sue March 13, 2020 at 3:29 am - Reply

    Jed,
    Your blog is a voice of reason during this crisis. I appreciate your perspective. Keep safe, sending you both love and positive thoughts and miss you!

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Sue. Maybe I’m also trying to talk myself off the ledge during this surreal time. Treviso, normally a vibrant city, is eerily quiet. Police are enforcing the restricted movement, stopping to question people and sending them back home (or arresting them) if they are trying to dodge the system. I wish this kind of enforcement had happened weeks ago. And, I hope the world learns from our mistakes. It’s always great to hear from you, and right now, it is of especially welcome comfort. xoxox Jed

  6. Susan Geiger March 13, 2020 at 2:33 am - Reply

    Thinking of you a lot these days, and appreciate your take on things there. Be safe….and we will strive to do the same.

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Susan. I’m glad to hear from you and comforted to know that you are working to stay safe. xoxox Jed

  7. Elizabeth Wholey March 12, 2020 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    An important blog, and well written. Thank you Jed. I wish US cities would quarantine rather than waiting till it’s too late. It will be interesting to see if the rate of new infections in Italy will fall after these restrictions have been in place for a couple of weeks. And then what? Meanwhile, to your health!

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      Elizabeth, you raise an important point about US cities. Hopefully, we’ll see more proactive quarantine while there is still time. The fact is, unfortunately, that no one knows the true, silent spread of coronavirus, which is why I believe it’s better to be safe than sorry. When I was down in Umbria doing some pruning, I fully was anticipating that lockdown would’ve occurred while I was there. But, I made it back to Treviso on mostly empty trains, constantly using hand sanitizer and staying well away from the nearest person. Please keep yourself safe. I hope a sliver of good news will appear on the horizon soon. xoxox Jed

  8. Michele DeMaio March 12, 2020 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Good Morning Jed….thankyou for your insight and perspective. I live in New Jersey very close to NYC..
    My response to your post was going to be completely different and then I came across a post on LinkedIn:

    EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT
    But everyone will need to work hard, together. Following the new government directives enacted in Italy, in order to contribute to the collective effort to contain this health emergency that involves us all, all Benetton Group shops in Italy will close for the next two weeks.,
    Staying at home doesn’t mean being alone, we are a close-knit community even when apart. And we’ll come back stronger than ever.

    Covid-19 is here.
    Work on what we can control. A positive mid-set, taking care of our physical and mental health by ensuring we are eating foods that boost the immune system.
    My sister passed away at 60 years old from complications of graph versus host disease from a bone marrow transplant.
    Being her “warrior” during her journey, I learned a lot about what it is like to be immune suppressed.
    Your entire life and lifestyle has to change.
    Constantly washing hands, sneezing into your elbow, wiping down restaurant tables
    and shopping carts in grocery stores with sanitizing wipes. Sanitizing wipes on hand in my handbag, in the car.
    Calling out strangers when they are not practicing safe hygiene in public places.
    This becomes your life when you are immune suppressed but became my life to make an effort to protect myself and loved ones as well.

    At this time the world community needs to all work together to control what we can in our personal space but to also support the leaders to come up with
    a vaccine that will never have this happen again.

    Working om a positive mental attitude every day and believe me it is hard work!

    .

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      Great comments, Michele. I’m glad you point out having a positive mindset. Even though the news is discouraging and daunting, doom and gloom aren’t helpful. Now, more than ever we need to encourage one another and do what we can based on what we can control, as you point out. I believe that means erring on the side of safety. Let’s pray we soon see encouraging signs that current efforts, even though late in coming, are making a difference.

  9. Robin March 12, 2020 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Very well conveyed Jed. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this horrible virus, worldwide.
    Sending well wishes to you from Umbria,
    XXo Robin

    • Jed March 13, 2020 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Robin. I’m heartened by a profuse outpouring of support from so many people. I’m encouraged that many people are starting to be more proactive and not only waiting to follow “official” guidance. I’m glad to know that you guys are staying safe. xoxox Jed

  10. Elizabeth Skinner Zuercher March 12, 2020 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Jed,

    You remember Lindsey Graham, who went to Daniel High and is now a Republican S.C. Senator in Washington, right? He would have some insight into what’s going on there now, if you had time to e-mail/text him. He has a website and Sen. Graham has direct contact with President Trump, unless you’ve already contacted him.

    Good luck and take care! A lot of prayers are with you! Let me know if I can help in other ways!

    Beth Skinner Zuercher

    • Jed March 12, 2020 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Beth. You and yours take care, too.

  11. Joe March 12, 2020 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Hang in there Jed, we keep you in our thoughts on a daily basis. We are trying to get Hannah home from Germany, she has a fellow student in Italy…we’ll be lucky to see Kacee by Graduation. Hannah’s plan is to come here for quarantine, so we’ll be off the radar for two weeks with her.

    Great writing today and quick response to the presidents speech last night. I wish he would have done two things…1. Solidarity with the world, not blaming Europe, I am sure that will have long-term ramifications. 2. Taken another 10 minutes and filled in the details a little more. Seems like a lot of ideas…but where is the action plan?

    Shirley sends her love as well. She keeps pushy for our trip to Italy, although I think we will communicate from afar for awhile yet.

    Joe

    • Jed March 12, 2020 at 4:33 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Joe and Shirley. It’s really good to hear from you and know that you’re keeping us in your thoughts. Let hold the vision of an in-person reunion when this dark storm passes.

  12. Lisa March 12, 2020 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    We are all in this together. We must remember compassion and the ability to help one another despite our fear. Sending love and hugs dear one.

    • Jed March 12, 2020 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      Yes, we are. I compassion and a shared effort for the greater good will guide us.

  13. Kristen March 12, 2020 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this important blog, Jed! Stay well. Love you and holding you close. 💕

    • Jed March 12, 2020 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Kristen. I’m comforted knowing you’re holding me close.

  14. Jennifer Batting March 12, 2020 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    *virtual hug*
    I couldn’t agree more. Polarizing will destroy us.

    • Jed March 12, 2020 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Virtual hug gratefully received! xoxox

  15. Stephanie March 12, 2020 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    I’m glad there are folks like Ursula von der Leyen leading the world. I’m still saying my prayers dear friend! Love you always!

    • Jed March 12, 2020 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Dear friends like you, Stephanie, are the medicine that I need right now to keep plugging along. We can no longer leave our house unless to go to the pharmacy, the grocery, or to work (under specific circumstances). Police are stopping anyone out and about.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to use this website you consent to our cookie usage and privacy policy. Ok