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.