A letter from Italy


Eleanor Finley writes from Italy – report from March 15

Dear comrades,

Here is my update from Italy. Good news first…
– Life under lockdown is intense, challenging, but also often quite beautiful. We are getting exercise, playing music, making art and sharing food. There’s a strong sense of social solidarity and things feel especially cheerful when the sun is out.
– Provisions like paused mortgages and bills payments are helping ease the anxiety of lost work. Life will go one when this is over.
– Our region, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, is still faring okay considering the circumstances. As of today, we have 347 cases and 14 deaths. Hospitals are working extremely hard, but not overwhelmed or breaking down (yet). Hospitals and health services are reshuffling as EMTs and ICU nurses relocate to bigger hospitals with negative-pressure rooms, which is smart.
– Supermarkets are placing restrictions on the number of people allowed in at a time: 25 people at once. You must stand in line outside at 6 feet apart. All clerks are wearing gloves and masks and the belt is being sanitized between each customer. This is a very good thing because it has prevented panic, crowds, and hoarding. I STRONGLY suggest ALL supermarkets and pharmacies implement these policies NOW. Like yesterday.
– No people outside (including cars) has made the birds and animals all very happy. I’m a bird watcher and have definitely noticed that birds are both more active and more relaxed. Good for them.

Now the bad news…
– The case fatality rate (death rate) in Italy 7.3%. That’s…staggering…especially considering the amount of testing Italy has done compared to other nations. We’re not exactly sure why that is, but I suspect it’s because Italy has an aging population. As I understand it, according to the current science, the disease is genetically stable, meaning it’s the same everywhere. So consider that 7.3% accordingly.
– It is worse in the cities.
– It is very bad in nursing homes and senior living facilities.
– Some people are STILL trying to violate the lockdown and go out to drink with their friends or whatever (Note: it’s illegal to leave the house without a permit for work, health emergency, etc. You face up to 3 months jail time.) I think some folks end up mentally overwhelmed by the enormity and scariness of the situation and their brains are just kind of short-circuiting. Sadly, we had this with a friend. The lesson? Some people are just NEVER going to get it. And those “some” people may be people you care about.
– Yes, children CAN and DO get infected. They just don’t often exhibit a serious illness. This means they can kill your parents. Keep them isolated like the rest of us. In Italy, there’s a campaign of kids drawing rainbows that say “Andrà tutto bene” / “Everything will be okay”. Give your kids stuff like that to do. Make them feel useful and like they are a part of the solution, cuz they are.
– The disease is likely “aerosolized” which means it can travel great distances in the air. 6-feet of distance is not nearly sufficient.

What to do…
– Stay home, stay home, stay home. Seriously, stay the f* home.
– Support seniors. Do their shopping. Call them. Explain that no, they can’t go to the beauty salon or to their favorite eatery. Those things will be there once we all get through this.
– Disinfect, ventilate, take Vitamin D.
– I have read there’s growing evidence not to take Ibuprofin if you are sick. Your body produces a fever for a reason: to burn out the pathogen. If you take fever reducers, the virus worsens in your lungs. The fever is not what kills people, it is the pneumonia. So be careful.

From my little corner of lovely Italy, I love you all.


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