More than 50,000 people in 10 towns in northern Italy have been placed under strict quarantine following several cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 being discovered. So far, two Italians have died but hundreds have been infected and many more thousands have been exposed.
Panic is spreading quickly.
But all across the country, paranoia is spreading faster than the virus. Giorgio Armani tweeted that he will now hold his Fall 2020 show behind closed doors in Milan this week, livestreaming the runway from an empty theater. The mayor of Milan, a city of more than 1.3 million people, announced Sunday that all schools and universities will be closed for at least a week even though the city is not locked down under the current quarantine.
In Rome, nervous taxi drivers outside Fiumicino Airport were hesitant to pick up Asian passengers and a Chinese woman in Turin reported being assaulted for simply being Chinese.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that all scholastic trips into and out of the country are suspended, including one involving this reporter’s son who was pulled from a flight to Budapest along with 30 other students early Sunday morning.
Realistically, your chances of dying from COVID-19 are less than two percent. The older and sicker you are, the better your chances are of becoming seriously ill.
But the pathology of the disease is still little understood.
In the northern town of Codogno, near Milan, the 39 people who initially tested positive are all tied to the local hospital and a so-called “Patient Zero” who was thought to have brought it back from Shanghai. The problem is that “Patient Zero” never tested positive for the virus. Authorities think he may have been a silent carrier, infecting a friend referred to as “Patient One” whose only tie to China was being a friend of “Patient Zero.” Authorities at first thought “Patient Zero” had the virus and recovered, but they concede that, in fact, there may be another source. Clearly, this is not a perfect science.
That’s the first we’ve heard of a “silent carrier” of the virus, which partly explains why scientists and researchers are having a devil of a time learning how to treat the disease and prevent its spread. Meanwhile, Europe is under economic threat as the quarantine efforts shut down urban area after urban area. People in Italy are being ordered to stay indoors under penalty of three months in jail. If they’re confined to their homes they’re not working and if they’re not working, economic activity falls through the floor. Italy’s economy, already weakened with massive debt, doesn’t need this right now.
Nor does China, as one of the hardest-hit provinces reported more than 600 cases in a single day.
China’s central Hubei province had 630 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Saturday, the province’s health commission said on Sunday, up from 366 new cases the previous day.
That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in Hubei to 64,084.
The death toll in Hubei from the outbreak reached 2,346 as of the end of Saturday, up by 96 from the previous day.
In America, we can’t shut out the rest of the world forever. It seems inevitable that an outbreak will happen here. Taking normal precautions, as you would for the flu, would be sensible. Wash your hands a few times a day, clean surfaces commonly touched in the home, eat well, drink plenty of fluids.
And hope for the best.