Update from Italy: The Lowdown on the Lockdown

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

I’m not gonna lie, the lockdown feels a little bit like The Shawshank Redemption. You remember that movie, from the nineties? Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman; I used to call it The Scrimshaw Redemption. A friend asked me today via chat if I feel like Anne Frank. Not yet! I crowed. We’re fine. Stressed, but fine. But that other shoe dropped this afternoon when the Comune di Firenze (city council) took the action to close all the city parks and greens paces because people were just getting too close. And I believe it. I have observed much public people closeness in our park out front since last Thursday. And Piazza D’Azeglio is premium Florentine park space, so I know whereof I speak. The polizia were slowly circling in those weird navy blue Honda Civics they drive, slowing down to tell people to stand back from one another. The recommended distance is one meter, but epidemic research out of China post facto has stated that the safe distance is closer to 4.5 meters.

So, I provide here a quick Q&A. The lowdown on our lockdown, if you will. Now, this has been a fast moving target, with daily tweaks and changes in the name of public health. And before you ask, no, I do not feel my civil rights have somehow been abridged; no, we are not in martial law. This is the reality of a tremendous public health crisis.

Q: Are you at home all day? A: Pretty much. 14 of 15 waking hours are in our apartment.

Q: How are the kids? A: As you might expect.

Q: What are reasons to leave home? A: To go to a job that cannot be done from home; to grocery shop; to go to a pharmacy or a doctor’s appointment.

Q: Is public transport running? A: Yes, but very scarce ridership.

Q: Is the mail being delivered? A: As far as I can tell, yes.

Q: What’s the grocery shopping like? A: In-store density is controlled by employees of the local Carrefour. It reminds me of those bouncy castles where output has to equal input to maintain internal equilibrium. Jason had to wait outside with a shopping bag this morning, but was allowed to enter when a few people came out. Touchless pay is preferred. The checkers have been superstars (shout OUT to the Carrefour on Via Carducci!) We’ll keep doing this until they say to stop.

Q: Can you go to the park? A: Not anymore. That changed after lunch today. We’ll get creative (even more creative) about kids exercise (peppy; aged 5 and 8).

Q: Are people wearing masks? A: This morning, our last trip to the park, mask-wearing seemed about half. A few N95 masks. A lot of lawnmower masks. Some scarves repurposed as desperado kerchiefs, which is better than nothing.

Q: Are you wearing a mask, Monica? A: This is weird. What kind of question is this? (Joke.) Not at this time, but if I had one, and I was on the sidewalk, I might. If I were on a city bus, I definitely would put a mask and disposable gloves on.

Q: Do you feel scared? A: More anxious, as the addenda to decrees seem to be coming once a day to further restrict movement and activity: Thursday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Q: I bet it’s chaos in Italy? A: You shut your mouth. I’ve never seen such a community of civil, law-abiding, courteous people in my life. Even when faced with extreme stress. And reminder: 22% of them are over 65.

Q: Anything else? A: I took off all my rings and then cut my nails very short in the interest of effective hand washing. I did the same for the kids. No rings, but their nails are gone.

This is March 12. The earliest things here might return to normal – school, work, sunshine, caffè, street life – is April 6. It’s a long game, people. I keep saying this. Please believe me. Dig in.