Update from Italy: Saturday, March 14

Photo by Josué AS on Unsplash

This is day five of the general quarantine across the country in Italy. I suspect the earliest we might return to normal could be April 5, or after Easter and Pasquetta (the Monday after Easter), so April 14. I’m kind of losing track of time. I need to start red-Xing a calendar or something. Another part of me thinks this could go on longer. Much longer. Like Q2 could just vanish. The world might come back to normal in June. But from here, and given the rate events are moving, April and May are probably writeoffs.

Yesterday was a tough news day. Cases are still sharply increasing, and just yesterday there were 250 new fatalities. The virus is a freight train that gathers steam and just gets heavier. I saw research that China could have reduced cases by 66% of they’d taken action one week earlier, and by 95% had action been take three weeks earlier. But the issue with public health emergencies is that few people believe they’re serious or real until they see tangible signs of emergency. The folly in that is obvious. But science will come for us all, sooner or later. I am still snickering darkly at the Pathogen Overlords moniker from that Psychology Today article.

We are managing out cooped-up feelings and anxiety pretty well here, all told. We’re getting out once a day to buy very small sacks of groceries, but if that ended, we’d be ok for 3-4 weeks at home, eating everything in the house that we have purchased and stockpiled. But even in China, at the height of their quarantine, one person per family per day was permitted to leave to grocery shop.

I’ve been binge watching Killing Eve and the BBC’s Henriad. Vic has been doing homework. The kids are getting a lot of use out of the Wii U Just Dance game, thank god. There’s even a workout setting where it will tell you how many calories you burned per song. Helpful.

I’m on top of our dishes, laundry, and dinners (tonight: butter chicken with rice and saag, and a freezer packet of pappadums I found that I’m gonna fry!) and meals. I’m going through pockets of disorganization one my one in the apartment to set things aright. As any child who has survived uncontrollable circumstances can tell you, OCD is a humane response to a feeling of being out of control, which describes, right now, a huge portion of the global population. Obviously my well-folded stacks of clothes on my bedroom shelves aren’t going to mitigate outcomes I cannot control, but it is a method to channel the helpless feeling. Someday I might tell you how I used to meticulously straighten the fringe on a throw rug in my bedroom at 3 a.m. with my hairbrush. (Disclosure: I was 8.)

We have completed our permission slips and signed them. The parks are closed – any gate that can be shut has been cable-tied with a warning – but the green spaces in fact, remain open, under the watchful eye of the polizia patrol (four today in our smallish park). Jason keeps one civil permission slip for grocery runs, and another civil permission slip for the fresh air and twenty to thirty minutes of attività motoria. This makes sense to me. These are effective precautions to think before you leave the house, it better be for one of three reasons. We take special care to look extra active when outside so as to not rouse any suspicions of bad-faith permission slip toting. Vic races on his razor scooter, Eleanor is readying for the peloton on her bike, Jason jogs after Eleanor, and I walk with Victor. There is a somber Salve (hello) here and there, but in general no one is much for greeting, since friends and strangers not supposed to approach one another. Family members are assumed to already be breathing one another’s air in an enclosed space, so are free to fraternize on the outside. The ATAF line buses chug by like ghost buses, with one to four passengers each. More people are wearing masks now.

Still. It feels good to respect the quarantine and to do our bit. It’s not the hardest position. I feel for the medical staff, everyone working in grocery stores and service capacities, and my god, those bus drivers and train conductors. This recent piece sums my feelings perfectly about being in lockdown where we are. Tuscany is managing decently, it seems, but we are in the northern part of the region that shares a border with Emilia Romagna, which is a hotspot of its own – less than Lombardy, but more than the Veneto. I am keeping a close eye on the daily reports of positive results, active and recovered patients, and fatalities.

As they say in Florence, Staharmo! Sta calmo. Stay calm!