Emails to America: From Italy, In the Time of Coronavirus, Part I

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6 mins read

Photo courtesy of Dipartimento Protezione Civile at https://flickr.com/photos/141202146@N02/49734004616 and is licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0 at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

This is an multi-part series showcasing early warnings to family and friends from an American expat in Italy.

Editor’s Note: On this date in the United States, Washington state reports the first U.S. death of a patient from coronavirus, and Northern California reports the fourth case. There are 70 confirmed and presumptive positive cases in the United States, including 44 people from the Diamond Princess Cruises ship and 3 citizens who returned from China.

February 29, 2020 — Coronavirus, at home and abroad

I’m only writing this to my immediate and closest family members both to let you know that I and my immediate family are all well here in Northern Italy, despite being right in the middle of a coronavirus/COVID 19 outbreak. 

What I really want to get across is that I don’t think you’re getting adequate information about this in your country. This morning when I saw this headline and article in the Washington Post that continues to talk about “isolated cases” in the US I could only shake my head.

I guess what I want to say is that I think you all need to reckon with the fact that it is probably much more widespread than you are being led to believe. 

“The U.S. government on Friday recommended avoiding nonessential travel to Italy as the number of coronavirus cases in the country surged to 800 and the death toll hit 21.” 

Pen NEWS

That’s not gonna reduce your chances of getting it. Just a reminder that Italy was the first European country to ban all air travel to and from China. . . at precisely the same time the US did.

But what we all need to realize is that it’s not THE OTHER that everyone needs to be afraid of. It’s each other. I don’t want to freak anyone out or cause a panic but I think it’s very important that the world stops pointing fingers and creating pariahs and starts working together to stop the spread of COVID19. And there are some American epidemiologists who heartily agree with me. I strongly urge you to take the time to read this:

The most crucial (and overdue) risk communication task for the next few days is to help people visualize their communities when “keeping it out” – containment – is no longer relevant. The P word [pandemic] is a good way to launch this message.

But the P word alone won’t help the public understand what’s about to change: the end of most quarantines, travel restrictions, contact tracing, and other measures designed to keep “them” from infecting “us,” and the switch to measures like canceling mass events designed to keep us from infecting each other. . . .

We hope that governments and healthcare institutions are using this time wisely. We know that ordinary citizens are not being asked to do so. In most countries – including our United States and your Australia – ordinary citizens have not been asked to prepare. Instead, they have been led to expect that their governments will keep the virus from their doors.

Virology Down Under

In the meantime, I will strongly suggest that you DO NOT rely on most of the mainstream US media (meaning the most widely read newspapers, cable TV – CNN, FOX, MSNBC or whichever – for reliable information).

And while I wish I could tell you to trust your federal government to tell you the truth and properly manage the crisis. . .

I will tell you that:

  • It’s NOT just going to go away when the weather gets better.
  • We’re still a long way from having a fully tested vaccine.
  • It WON’T just miraculously disappear.
  • It won’t necessarily kill ya if ya get it, unless you’re much older and/or have some serious health issues already.
  • It can be contained if we all work together, individually like we’re doing here in Northern Italy.
  • All public schools have been, and are, still closed.
  • Many office workers have been asked to work at home—our company is doing this for hundreds of people, complete with computers and “home office safety instructions.”
  • Visits to work places by clients, suppliers, etc. are not allowed.
  • All large public gatherings and events, even soccer matches, have been cancelled, moved up or are being played on TV in a closed stadium.
  • People are doing their best to limit their movements and contact with others.

Yes, it’s gonna really hurt an already hurting Italian economy. But I guess we’re all willing to make that sacrifice until we get this shit under control.

Wishing all the very best to my American family.

Wash your hands… often!!

Love you all.

Click here for Part II; here for Part III; here for Part IV; here for Part V; here for Part VI; and here for Part VII.


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