Update from Italy: Tuesday, March 10

Pretty much sums the current kid mood in Italy. And this is just Day 4 of I can’t even count how many more.
I should consult a calendar. Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

This is not a drill. News is moving even faster than I thought it would.

A lot of news out of Italy in last 24 hours. As you know, the entire country is now designated a zona rossa – a red zone – which means everyone is effectively observing isolation, except in the case of mandatory work, grocery shopping, a trip to the pharmacy, and medical appointments. This is unprecedented. Italy is a parliamentary democracy of over 60 million people. But there is no more time. See this BBC summary in English.

I am happy to limit my social activity and excursions. If everyone could just stay home for two weeks, this would subside posthaste. I had my major stress response about two weeks ago, as I walked out from Jason’s office onto Via Giorgio La Pira and found myself scrutinizing every pedestrian, how far away were they, did they look sick, were they breathing (of course they were breathing, but such is irrationality) that I was walking around a fetid battlefield of novel coronavirus. That lasted about a day. I am now in “let’s deal with this” mode, feeling quite brisk and matter of fact. Jason and I are discussing what might happen if one of the four of us tests positive, how we will quarantine as a family, the more worrying questions of what will happen if one or both of us are hospitalized, what will happen to the kids? These are huge concerns as we do not have any family here in Italy, and even if we were in the US (and I always have to explain this to disbelieving Italians), our family lived 600, 1800, and 2200 miles away from us, respectively. No one was going to be able to ride in and help us.

I know furbizia is getting a lot of press as a personal response to the civil response. It translates as “cunning,” and refers to the myriads ways in which rules are disregarded with a wink. I will say that here in Florence I see very little evidence of furbizia. People seem on board with the directives. It’s not China, and no one is getting welded into their apartments from the outside. La Repubblica reported this morning that, in the latest analysis from China – China, who is now emerging on the other side of the outbreak, and has slowly begun to reopen schools and close their numerous and dedicated temporary hospitals – the virus can survive up to 30 minutes on surfaces, and that a meter of social distance does not ensure safety – it is closer to 5 meters. We are assiduously washing our hands at our house, so much so that Eleanor’s tiny mitts have dried and cracked, which obviously makes things worse. We blame the cheap liquid soap (Victor loves the cheap berry scent) and are working on getting her a hypoallergenic hand soap ASAP.

Day 4 of school closures here. I note that a number of large US campuses are closing classrooms and moving to online courses. This is smart, and appropriate. Everyone can do it; everyone has laptops; campuses already transact a huge amount of research, learning, and administration online. Victor and Eleanor do not yet know that the earliest they might return to school is April 6, almost a month away. We have not yet told them. By 4 PM yesterday Victor was red-eyed and crying in the laundry closet, unable to take it anymore. We hauled out our Wii U for a Just Dance tournament, which helped things. Mamma prescribes active Wii U in hourly measures for weeks to come. Eleanor continues to parade around the house like an extra from a period film, dressed in her medieval princess costumes from Halloween and Carnevale.

Hospitals up north are stressed to capacity. Medical units are overflowing, treating patients in corridors, managing access to ventilators and CPAP devices. Cases in Tuscany are steadily climbing upward. The region registered its first Covid-19-related death yesterday.

The older students in our neighborhood held an all-night rave last night and Saturday night in the piazza, boot boot boot went the bass beat until 5 AM. It won’t happen again as the polizia will be out in force to break up any public gatherings.

This is not a drill. Earthlings, this is not a drill. Take note! My friends in the EU, UK, and the US – I urge you to limit your mobility. Stop moving around. Please, isolate as you can at home. All the activity is making everything worse. I am floored at the conferences and congresses, workshops and trainings, parties and fundraisers that stream across social media in images and updates from the US, France, and the UK. People, please please please just stop. Don’t go out. Do not go out! Don’t take a trip. Don’t congregate. Don’t wait for public policy to tell you what do do. Use common sense. Wash your hands. Read the news. Be realistic. Don’t spread rumors. Go buy some extra food and sit on your sofa with your laptop.

I’ll keep posting from Italy. Please, be prudent, think of your community, and stay well. And remain calm. As calm as you can. That is all for now.