Sunday, March 22, 2020

Update from Lucca: The numbers are down; the first hopeful sign in days

“There is a glimmer of light in Italy. The coronavirus numbers went down today: 3,957 new cases and 651 dead.”  This is how my Facebook friend from Lucca, Jonell Galloway, started her post Sunday evening. The day before the numbers were 4,821 new cases and 793 dead. Following is the rest of her report:

An empty street in Lucca.
Maybe the virus has peaked. Just as well. I was starting to see the world in black. It’s hard when the numbers go up every day and you’ve been self-isolating in your house for weeks on end. Strangely enough, this is becoming the new normal, although if we are indeed past the peak, it means there is now light and some hope.

Jonell Galloway
Last night, the government closed all manufacturing except vital necessities. The food shops and supermarkets are still well-stocked although one of my regulars, the bean, spice and olive oil shop, Prospero, closed down abruptly with no forewarning. I suspect one of the employees caught Covid-19 and they all had to go into quarantine. The same could happen any day in the other food shops where employees are overexposed to the public.

I’ve still not witnessed any signs of hoarding, and the government promises that food and medical supplies will not be broken, but what if the very people who work to feed us fall ill? What if farmworkers and employees in food processing plants go into quarantine?

Both our daughters and their boyfriends in France and Spain are infected, as well as two cousins. They’ve been in quarantine for a week and have very light symptoms, although one has lost her sense of taste and smell a week into it. I have a friend who has asthma and has had it for a month. She’s better, but far from over it. Despite the confinement, our Ana manages to do 10,000 steps a day in the house. Leo still works out at home every day. Their symptoms are not worrying yet they must avoid contact with people less healthy than they.

In Italy, there has been a sense that the lockdown is in everybody’s best interest, so most people are following the rules. They are being responsible because they know it will only get worse if they don’t cooperate. I say that, knowing that the military has been brought to Milan and I think Rome to enforce the rules. My friend in Turin says there are far too many people in the streets, and they will surely have to clamp down. The government’s policy is that lockdown has to be complete to be effective. That makes sense to me.

Sometimes I feel like a prisoner in my own home, and I stand by the window and wave through the bars at the odd passerby. The bars come with the 17th-century architecture of the house which has nothing to do with the real prison across the street. The wait for a sign of life can be long because the streets are empty, and often we can only make facial gestures to each other because their arms are laden with groceries.

All our assumptions about what tomorrow will bring have been turned upside down. Every day is the same in that we wait for the new numbers, announced at 6 p.m. Sometimes we hear that they are going to announce more stringent measures, so we wait for the new decrees to be released to know what we should be doing to support this war on coronavirus. It’s a little like spelunking. You attach the light to your head and little by little you see where the cave takes you. There’s no map to show you your way. You have to be patient and carry on, not knowing what will come around the next corner.

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