According to the Italian health ministry’s daily update, there are now 528 cases of novel coronavirus in the country as of today, with 128 more than yesterday. You can see today’s update here, including the regional breakdown.
“Flights arrive to Milan with just a smattering of passengers, including one this week from Paris with 30 people spread out over more than 150 seats. Venetian tour guides and resort town hoteliers speak about rafts of cancellations.”
The quote above comes today from an article in the Washington Post, “Italy’s economy was scary enough. Then came coronavirus.”
One of the people interviewed for the piece is Marco Calaon, president of the Colli Euganei wine growers association. He lives in Vo’ (Padua province), on the west side of the Euganean Hills (Colli Euganei), one of the 11 or so (I can’t verify exactly how many) northern Italian towns that are currently on lockdown because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. (It’s about an hour drive west from Venice.)
When I read his name this morning, it really hit home. Padua is where I first studied and lived in Italy and I know the Euganean Hills well. Petrarch, the medieval poet I studied for my doctorate, spent the last years of his life in the Euganean Hills.
Here’s what a friend and colleague of mine from the Colli Euganei wrote on her Facebook earlier this week, an “open letter” to Veneto region president Luca Zaia (translation mine).
- Mr. Preeeeeeeeesident Luca Zaia. Ok! We get it! We are officially scared. Weak. But enough is enough already. I’m still going to vote for you but you’ve got to cut it out. Start giving us serious information. Don’t pull a Silvio [Berlusconi] on us. Give us concrete information. Don’t just tell us that the people who have died are either old or sick with something else. Tell us how the living are doing. “Contagion”? Enough with the fancy words. How are those people doing? It’s no big deal to stay at home for a little while. Sure, there’ll be less traffic in the streets. We’ll eat our fruits and veggies. We’ll try to be as healthy as possible. But the air we’re breathing isn’t exactly clean. Give us the truth please. The real truth. Common sense truth. In the end, they’re going to tell us that this was just a normal case of the flu, but just a bit stronger. That’s all they need to do to scare a couple of dumb little nobodies like us.
Man, it just broke my heart this morning to think of my friend and how the health crisis is upending her life.
A lot of people have been asking me if I plan to cancel my trip to Italy in a few weeks. The answer is no, no way. Since the outbreak and ensuing panic have begun, I’ve heard and read some of the most outlandish things about the illness and its origins. I’m no health specialist or doctor, by no means. But here’s what I believe about the novel coronavirus.
– You are still more likely to come down with the common flu than you are to get the novel coronavirus.
– As for the common flu, the people at the greatest risk of dying from the novel coronavirus are the elderly or people already affected by a respiratory illness.
– Nearly everyone who has died from the the novel coronavirus in Italy has been 80 years old or older (there was one man who was 69 at the time of his passing).
– We all need to be vigilant in not spreading the novel coronavirus because we need to protect the elderly and the infirm.
– The panic about the novel coronavirus is disrupting life and work more than the novel coronavirus itself.
– Surgical masks don’t stop you from getting the novel coronavirus (they stop you from spreading it).
Yes, I’ll be heading to Italy in two weeks, just as planned. I’ll be sure to wash my hands more frequently, for a minimum of 20 seconds with plenty of soap. I’ll make sure I don’t touch my face without washing my hands first. I’ll make a point of staying as healthy as possible to build up my immune system (no late nights, no partying, making sure I get enough sleep, eating right, and getting enough exercise etc.). And most importantly, when I get back, I’ll make sure I avoid contact with any family or friends who are elderly or infirm for at least two weeks.