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

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This is a multi-part series showcasing early warnings to family and friends from an American expat in Italy. To read the series from the beginning, click here.

Editor’s Note: On this date, the United States sees its largest one-day increase in coronavirus deaths – 18 for a total of 85. The San Francisco Bay Area, home to 6 million people across 6 counties, announces a lockdown that will begin the next day and last at least three weeks. U.S. stock markets plunge. Ohio officials order that polls remain closed the next day despite a primary election. At a press conference, Trump acknowledges that the coronavirus outbreak could last for months. He announces new guidelines, including that gatherings should be limited to 10 people, and tells state governors to search for ventilators and respirators on their own. And the U.S. surgeon general warns, “When you look at the projections, there’s every chance that we could be Italy.”

March 16, 2020 – More News and Information from the Front Lines #CoronavirusInItaly

Still waiting to have a reply from a good many of you just to know exactly what you’re thinking about all this news (and information) bubbling around the coronavirus and its related disease COVID-19. As I write this, the sound of the ambulance sirens wail outside and the dead bodies are literally piling up, kept in coffins in the churches, waiting for the all too slow incinerators in the cemetery which will send them to their rest, no funerals, no eulogies, one at a time. And I still don’t know if all of you are taking my advice to STAY. AT. HOME. Some of you I have just added to the mailing list and for this I am truly sorry. At this point every time I sit down at my computer it is with the intention of saving lives. Of screaming once again into the void to beseech you. DO AS I’VE BEEN TELLING YOU. Yes, wash your fucking hands but ALSO . . . STAY. AT. HOME. If you won’t believe it from me, listen to what the Italians themselves are saying.

Time is of the essence. I am seeing just now that your government is finally telling you what we in Italy have been hearing for weeks, day and night, every time we turn on the TV, every time we turn on the radio, from every single news source, along with the numbers. Which still, unfortunately are growing every day. If you ACT NOW and follow the simple rules of isolating yourselves and your families, there may still be time to flatten the curve and bring this thing under control.

If, for any reason, the link on the article above is not working I urge you to do whatever you need to, including paying for Medium, to read every single word. Take your time. Read it, then read it again. Read it one piece at a time if it’s more comfortable. Many of you will be experiencing a sort of denial right about now. It’s normal. I see that many Americans are laughing in the face of this, going out to dinner, to bars, even to clubs (while they’re still open) and this is exactly what many Italians did as well. It’s a normal psychological mechanism. “I’m not afraid.” 

And then there is misinformation. Lots of it. One of the myths that many people and one of the most-watched cable news networks in the nation have apparently been spreading (probably along with COVID-19) is that the coronavirus is no different than the H1N1 influenza.

Oh honey. . . GET INFORMED.

Covid-19 is near the beginning of its spread in the U.S., and thus cannot be compared with H1N1’s effect over a full year. If the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 is only 12,469 a year from now, that will likely be counted as a great success. The legitimate worry is that it could be many, many times higher, because Covid-19 is so much deadlier for those who get it than the 2009 H1N1 influenza was.

How much deadlier is still unknown, but of the cases reported to the WHO so far 3.4% have resulted in fatalities. That’s probably misleadingly high because there are so many unreported cases. . . . But even that is 35 times worse than H1N1 in 2009 and 2010. Multiply 12,469 by 35 and you get 436,415 – which would amount to the biggest U.S. infectious-disease death toll since the 1918 flu. Hospitalization rates are also many times higher for Covid-19, meaning that if it spread as widely as H1N1 it would overwhelm the U.S. health-care system.

Bloomberg News, March 10, 2020

And from the Medium article on social distancing. . .

Our health system will not be able to cope with the projected numbers of people who will need acute care should we not muster the fortitude and will to socially distance each other starting now. On a regular day, we have about 45,000 staffed ICU beds nationally, which can be ramped up in a crisis to about 95,000. Even moderate projections suggest that if current infectious trends hold, our capacity (locally and nationally) may be overwhelmed as early as mid-late April.

So it’s very important that you are getting RIGHT information right now. I can’t remember who it was but someone became rather famous recently for saying, “Right matters. Truth matters!”

Reminder. I am only taking the time to write these emails because I care about you and I care about what will happen to America, which, I can assure you, will not be pretty. Please share them as widely as you wish. They may just save a life. 

I feel that this is enough information for now. Perhaps by the time I write another email to my friends and family (even adding some acquaintances now) hopefully we will all be STAYING AT HOME together and then I can give you the upside to staying at home. There are quite a few positive things about it actually. For now I will leave you with the answer to what the Italians are doing with all this time on their hands because I was asked a very thoughtful question and I’ll reprint it here:

Do you see neighborhoods pulling together for support, or isolating from fear?

The best answer to that is this. The Italians are singing to each other from their balconies Ah. . . Viva L’Italia!

Stay safe everyone, stay healthy, STAY AT HOME. 

Click here for Part VI; and here for Part VII.

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