Update from Italy: Saturday Morning

Photo by Julius Rinke on Unsplash

The morning broke here overcast and nondescript. Like any other day on the threshold of February and March. The news, on the other hand, feels pretty out of the ordinary. I file this with the First Gulf War and, to a lesser extent, 9/11.

Jason was working overnight to manage the latest news: the CDC has raised Italy’s Warning Level to 3, “avoid non-essential travel.” You can read the full text here. I find most interesting this statement: There is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas. Have the writers of this statement been to America? Further, the affected areas are under military quarantine. You can’t get in. Residents can’t get out. Italy quarantined those 11 towns a week ago with the Italian equivalent of federal marshals (carabiniere) and soldiers. If you want to gate-crash that barrier and demand medical care …. I am a bit at a loss for words. There is open access to medical care in Italy. Across the country. The stray cases here and there are being extremely managed. I feel safe in Florence, and I feel our family is safe in Florence. If this changes, I will update.

Italian health authorities continue to search for the index patient in Italy, but more news has come out about “Mattia,” the 38-year-old man in Codogno who is a probable super-spreader.

We’re headed up to the Gonzaga-in-Florence campus later on today to help send off some the students who are returning home. There were about 200 enrolled for this semester. Now that the CDC threat level has been raised from 2 to 3, campuses are calling home all U.S. students. And the study abroad programs that had not already announced closures are now closing: 7 today. The rest will close this weekend; they have to now, for insurance and legal reasons. The concern now with the American students, or for that matter, anyone, headed home from Italy (or China, or Japan, or South Korea) is that they may be placed in quarantine once they arrive by U.S. health authorities. Never mind that they are not originating from outbreak centers, but Tuscany. Not much at all has been happening in Tuscany, and we are a northern region. Of course, this could change. But it is not the case now.

Flights continue to arrive and leave from the Florence airport. It does seem like Italy is calming down. Rolling up shirtsleeves, dealing with reality. And the infection does not seem to be spreading with any speed through the country. It all remains concentrated in the north.

The news out of the U.S. is more concerning: that our president has said the pandemic is a hoax, that it originated with immigrants. I know enough to take a page out of the fiction turned reality. (See: Orwell.) I am extremely concerned in the U.S. that the “control” of information from the top, and the muzzling of an acknowledged medical and epidemiological expert like Dr. Fauci, will really take things to a different place. America has some very concerning complicating factors in this unfolding global plot.

As I wrote to American friends who are still stateside yesterday, if you don’t have to get on a boat to sail across the ocean next week, don’t.

More news to come as I have it.