A side-by-side comparison of Covid-19 infection curves tells a powerful story.
Look at Italy and the U.S. side by side. Wow. What a difference.
Sure, Italy was slow from the get-go. We suffered from the wishful thinking that this just wouldn’t hit us as it had in China. Well, we got slapped hard enough with a tidal wave of cases and deaths that shocked people into reality—finally. It’s sad that it took that kind of toll for us to get with the program. But, we did. And Italian residents, when the restrictions were put into place, weren’t given the option to personalize their approach or decide whether they were going to comply are not. The penalties were high and the polizia were out in regular surveillance and enforcement (pricy fines, felony charges, and possible jail time).
But people stuck with it, and Conte, our PM, set a fine example with wearing his face mask religiously, and underscoring the gravity of the situation and explaining what HAD to happen before more opened up phases would commence. We needed the sobering reminders of what was at stake for the long term.
So, for a good part of three months, we behaved. It didn’t mean we didn’t worry about the damage to the economy, or our personal losses and abilities to meet our financial obligations. There was plenty of that. BUT, people understood that the longer-term implications of not doing everything to nip this in the bud would be far worse.
Habits need enough time and practice to become ingrained, to become normalized.
Fortunately, Italian residents have been corraled into adopting important life-saving behaviors for a long enough time for things to stick. And, we’ve been rewarded with an infection and death curves that have dropped dramatically.
Meanwhile, we watch the circus of inconsistency abroad, and curves heading up rather than down. I’d hoped the U.S. would’ve learned from us, but from my vantage point, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
We know we’re not out of the woods. Our infectious disease specialists are crystal clear that a small outbreak can turn into a full-blown forest fire if we don’t maintain vigilance to our practices and keep focusing on testing. There will always be people who decide that they know better than the experts and end up doing their own thing. But, if that is a small fraction of the population, we hope it can be managed and snuffed out. Face it, folks, that’s going to be the name of the game until there is news on the vaccine front. We can’t bank a future protection scenario and start living like COVID-19 is going be wrestled out of existence before accepting the reality of long term inconvenience.
The tables have turned in the new face of travel.
Part of protecting Italy’s progress is paying attention to our borders. It’s a real Catch-22 since so much of this country’s economy is fueled by tourism. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But I think the EU as a total entity is looking at whether or not to allow non-urgent travel to Europe. “Not” becomes more likely with each passing day as we see the Covid-19 curve in the U.S. on a pretty pronounced incline. So, like the U.S. was with China first, then Italy, the shoe is on the other foot and it remains to be seen if U.S. leaders will be understanding if the EU keeps hard limitations on travelers from the U.S.
A BIG caution against fatigue and impatience.
Italy isn’t immune to the very things that have been fueling the resurgence of Covid-19 abroad. Just yesterday, there was a tiny spike of new cases, mostly emanating from Lombardy (Milan). There, large numbers of the youthful population constantly have been straining at the reins to get out, socialize, and party like before. Sound familiar? So, yes, this could very well be the thing that sends Italy racing back to a tidal wave of new cases and deaths. I pray that Italian authorities are quick to act if that starts happening.
Meanwhile, I pray, I hope, and I wait.