Now is NOT the time to relax!

I get it. I want to be done with the coronavirus crisis. I’m desperate for life to return to some semblance of normality. But, seeing Italy’s death rate spike after two days of going down reminds me that this pandemic isn’t to be trifled with. As much as I’d like for it not to be the case, this is going to be drawn out.

Italy is doubling down to fight the coronavirus crisis.

And for good reason, thankfully. Watching behaviors over the past several weeks, Italian leaders are understanding that too many people (thinking that somehow they will be immune) have been defying the guidelines. They’re realizing that this fight with a slippery, invisible enemy, isn’t going to be won with just a few inconvenient weeks of lockdown. And the coronavirus isn’t going to be defeated. Rather, it’s a fight to knock this pandemic back to buy us time to get therapeutic treatments in place and hopefully a vaccine.

Italy is letting its residents know, in no uncertain terms, that not complying is coming with increasing stringent punishments which could include one to five years of jail time and/or 4oo € to 3,000 € fines.

And, Italy has started to enforce social distancing through drone surveillance, as reported by

“The Italian Interior Ministry has reported that over 92,000 people and more than 2,000 businesses had been reported for violating movement restrictions, up to Sunday.”

Yes, lockdown enforcement during this coronavirus crisis is getting progressively more serious. I’m glad to see this message being underscored since patience for so many people is wearing thin.

Looking for a reliable trend in Italy’s numbers.

People (including me) are so eager to see a leveling out or drop in the numbers of new cases and fatalities. For two of the last three days, we saw the death rate in Italy drop. Then, yesterday it shot up again. Ugh!!!

I remember my sparse training in statistics and analytics and a cardinal rule that data is needed over a longer period of time to truly have confidence that a reliable trend is merging. Only then, might we cautiously put faith in it.

The danger in looking at Italy’s numbers as a whole.

Two nights ago we watched infectious disease specialists talking about the danger of only looking at the coronavirus numbers in Italy as a whole. Lombardy’s massive stats (like NYC’s) can skew perceptions. These specialists pointed out the importance of watching the numbers outside of Lombardy, especially in southern Italy since those parts are late in the curve of implementing containment efforts.

Take Naples, for example, where large parts of the city are a law unto themselves. Large swathes of the city exist where police rarely if ever venture. Can we depend on the compliance of stricter guidelines there? Only time will tell.

Eagerness to get back to life as we know it can be our undoing.

Dare I say that we as a species have become dependant, entitled even, to quick fixes. Think about the mentality that doctors encounter with patients who insist on being prescribed a magic antibiotic in spite of indications that they have a virus. My dear mother often was that way. She’d come to believe, like a good number of us, that medicine and medical advances were and should be able to tackle pathogens expeditiously. The coronavirus crisis is chasing those perceptions right out the window.

Let Hong Kong be a cautionary tale.

If you’re not aware of how Hong Kong relaxed its coronavirus containment efforts, thinking it had licked, or at least knocked it back to a manageable state, I’d encourage you to read the brief summary in this article by James Griffiths.

“But this latest lesson may be a bitter pill to swallow, as it indicates that quarantines and social distancing must continue well beyond the
initial wave of cases, if another round of infections is to be avoided.

For those just going into lockdown, that could mean they’re in for the long haul.”

James Griffiths, CNN

Wuhan China is lifting its lockdown on April 8—that’s over two months of enforcement.

Read the CNN story here.

And, that’s strict enforcement, not enforcement that just spits at the problem. Only days ago has the government of Italy gotten the religion needed to implement real and thorough lockdown in this country. Maybe it took the reality of stories and images of beyond-overworked doctors and nurses (many of whom are now infected). Perhaps it’s seeing stacked up coffins awaiting processing at the crematoriums in Milan even though they’re working 24/7.

I’m afraid we’re in for a wait.

But, if like Wuhan, we can be vigilant and steadfastly comply with the restrictions, we have the same potential to see our current curves level out and start to drop. I don’t believe that we can leap at a day’s “better” numbers and think we’ve turned the corner. Maybe after a week of consistent data to support a perceived trend, then we can begin to have real hope.

Economic pain or a high number of deaths?

It’s a question being asked, isn’t it? Personally I have a huge problem with some leaders who are growing restless of the prolonged inconvenience and damage to the U.S. economy and are already itching to get the gears of work-life back in action. Concurrently they float the possibility of letting the coronavirus ravage a large number of people, though they play with statistics, citing percentages vs. real numbers. I find the following quotes from elected leaders chilling:

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in,”

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Texas in a Fox News interview

“I’m not denying what a nasty disease COVID-19 can be, and how it’s obviously devastating to somewhere between 1 and 3.4 percent of the population…But that means 97 to 99 percent will get through this and develop immunities and will be able to move beyond this. “

Senator Ron Johnson

I had to read these quotes several times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Is the America you love one that chooses to let the coronavirus crisis “prune” large numbers of the population while chalking up the loss as sad but a minor percentage? Both of these men seem to view this as an acceptable sacrifice to get the American economy humming along again. But, I have to wonder what they would say if they were on a ventilator for innumerable days, struggling to breathe and wondering if the next breath might be their last. What would be their response when the medical services collapse under the sheer number of cases that surely will overwhelm the system?

Live to fight another day.

This idiom has become my motto. For now, let’s dispense with assigning blame to the Chinese for the rise of this virus in the first place. But, let’s do pay attention to what has worked in Wuhan, which is a two+ month severe lockdown. I remember being aghast at the stories coming out of Wuhan a couple of months ago, never remotely entertaining the possibility that I would be living it as well. And, now I am. I’m not certain of what Italy will be like when the worst of this has passed, but I am comforted that current efforts have finally risen to the necessary level to make this manageable and to buy us time.

I’m coming to peace to being confined to our home for two months, embarking upon only the absolutely necessary errands. But, with that I have hope. I see the possibility of us beginning to emerge by mid-to-late May and of starting to build again. I’m not saying it will be easy by any stretch. But, lack of vigilance, I’m afraid, would make this confinement and its consequences far longer and more severe.