Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Update from Italy: Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

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As my readers know, I live and work in Florence. My husband and I live here with our two children. I will resume posting here to keep my global friends and family up to date with our Italian news on the ground.

Two months ago, the word coronavirus wasn’t even coined, as far as we know. February has been a bit of a news ride, the headlines tugging at the back of the mind from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Two Chinese nationals passed through Florence as tourists in early February; they were hospitalized in Rome with a third, and all have recovered. But now Italy feels like it may be reaching a tipping point.

No one knows how the outbreak (focolaio) began in northern Italy. What is known is that it became the nexus of the outbreak in the country, and been spreading. Lombardy and the Veneto are the most impacted, but cases are popping up in other regions of Italy, as well as in places where infected Italians have traveled – Austria, Croatia, the Canary Islands. The web of infection is expanding. I was kindly pointed by a French friend to a website that aggregates facts about Covid-19. She’s a mom in Paris staying abreast of quarantines for French schoolchildren who have returned from their vacances de printemps in Lombardy and Piedmont in far northwestern Italy. I have been checking and refreshing the website often as their facts and figure counting seem to be sober and reliable.

My layperson’s assessment of the situation here thus far: healthy younger people (say, under 50) who contract the virus are hospitalized and make a recovery. No fatalities have been reported in children under 9. However, it seems that older people (>60) and immuno-compromised people (upper respiratory, chemo treatment, cardiac crises) who contract the virus succumb more quickly. Is it because of the virulence of the virus? Were they exposed at a hospital where they were receiving treatment for their existing condition or illness? This is very likely why China built those dedicated outbreak hospitals (nothing similar in Italy in that time frame would even be possible, btw.) I wonder how much contamination is happening at hospitals. The long incubation period (up to three weeks) and asymptomatic carriers make transmission very hard to track.

I am, for now, less worried about my health and that of my family. I am more concerned that globally, millions will become carriers of a virus that proves very grave indeed for older and more vulnerable populations. I am also concerned about the unconfirmed news in circulation which seems to pop up and mutate like a separate virus itself.

Tourism in Florence is about half of what it normally is, and we are in low season here. I rode my bike through Piazza San Giovanni yesterday, in front of the baptistery, and it was fairly deserted. A lone schoolgroup was in Piazza Santissima Annunziata last night. Riding my bike close to them, I heard them speaking Spanish. They are not covered by the government injunction on school fieldtrips.

I am choosing my words carefully; I am not given to panic. I am so curious as to how the outbreak began up north in Codogno.

I give you this Atlantic article for context.

More to come. Stay tuned; March is going to be newsy.

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