Update from Italy: Thursday Evening

A normally bustling and crowded Piazza San Giovanni in the center of Florence is quiet. The rain probably also had something to do with this, but it is still stark. Lone pedicab guy can't even find a fare in the freezing rain.
A normally bustling and crowded Piazza San Giovanni in the center of Florence is quiet. The rain probably also had something to do with this, but it is still stark. Lone pedicab guy can’t even find a fare in the freezing rain.

Florence is quieter than usual, but business – school, work – continue. The tourists have dropped off; I have been told we are down to 60%. In Florence this is notable, when high season happens year round. There is no low season in Florence. I ride my bike through Piazza San Giovanni and Piazza del Duomo multiple times per day, and I do not even need to part the crowd with a bicycle bell, or walk my bike. In fact, there is barely anyone around whom to maneuver.

The news is tough. It makes it seem worse than it is. Things really do feel like business as usual, for locals. But the tourists are gone. This emptiness has a real impact on the city’s economy.

Even more difficult, all around, is the decision of many US-based programs to shutter for the rest of the semester and to send their students home to America, in an abundance of precaution. It is hard to explain to Italians how American universities, with their General Counsel and Offices of Risk Management, make decisions. I suspect in Italy and France, in many places in Europe, these decisions rest with just one person. In any case, Florence typically hosts 8,000 US students a year who are enrolled in credit-bearing programs. But a few thousand of those will be going back to the US now to finish their semesters from there – with remote instruction from Italy – bringing up new issues in tech and Italian faculty, as well as parents who had expected their adult children to Be Having The Time Of Their Life in Florence, only to land back in their old bedroom due to pandemic. Listening to classes on their laptops with headphones. Turning in work on Blackboard. Tough for students. Tough for parents. Tough for faculty and staff based in Italy. Tough for the Italian economy. I get it.

Cases in Italy are now at 650. This virus is gonna roll round the world, y’all. Most of us will be just fine. But I continue to be very concerned about older populations and the vulnerable, immuno-compromised.

If you’re under 70, guidance seems to emphasize washing hands like a midwife and sneezing into your elbow. Over 70? Stay away from anyone symptomatic.

Symptoms are much like regular flu: fever, body ache, headache, and a quick, persistent cough at onset. Symptoms do not include sniffling, runny nose, or barfing, so … that’s helpful. Since our eight-year-old was barfing into a trash can from the sofa last month. I feel confident it was the normal flu. Of course no Covid-19 was even near Italy at the time. In any case, that wasn’t any fun either, since afterward he said, “Mamma? When I had that fever everything felt…. sideways.”

I am keeping an eye on EU news. UK seems ready to flip out. Other member countries do not yet seem to be proactively testing, and hence their reporting numbers may be well underreported.

Still super curious about the Italian index patient up north. I need some news about that, stat.