Monday, March 9, 2020

Coronavirus having an impact now in Tuscany, but residents still optimistic

UPDATE: Just a few hours after I posted this, all of Italy was declared a red zone. However, the rest of the message is still relevant.

Had it not been for the divine intervention of Lucy’s little slip on the stairway in late January, right now we would be in Montecarlo in the province of Lucca, which quite possibly will be put under quarantine in the near future. Twelve provinces are currently quarantined, and Lucca (see map) touches the border of one of the zones locked down by government decree.

It wouldn’t be terrible to be confined to Montecarlo, as we have a very comfortable home there. Montecarlo has a nice grocery store and plenty of restaurants that would probably remain available to locals. And I just read on Matteo Bianchi’s Facebook page that he will deliver groceries and prepared meals from his family’s grocery store and delicatessen in San Salvatore, so we wouldn’t even have to leave our house if we didn’t want to.

But I’d rather be in Gig Harbor, as I’m able to start planting seeds for our summer garden and get our business ready for the summer. We also have a small family reunion in South Carolina planned for early April that we would miss if we were stuck under a quarantine in Italy.

Still I can’t help but wonder what our friends and family in Tuscany are going through, and I know many others would like to know as well. One of my Facebook friends in Lucca just posted an update, and it deserves wider circulation. It is from Jonell Galloway, a fellow author currently living in Lucca.

Life is no longer normal in Italy, but we are surviving. As always, there is both good and bad in our predicament. The bad is that people are dying from a virus brought from China to Bavaria then on to Italy. The good is the moving solidarity, goodwill and efforts the Italian government and people have displayed at every level.

Jonell in Lucca
It is not through lack of reactivity that this has spread. The government and health care system have been unfailing in their organization and efforts. We are kept up to date on a practically minute-by-minute basis on numerous government-sponsored sites. Museums, theatres, cinemas, concert halls and schools have been closed. The government is urging and sometimes mandating that public events be canceled. If we are fragile of health or have traveled to highly contaminated zones, we are urged to go into self-isolation.

In order to support these efforts, many food purveyors and pharmacies are delivering to people over 75 free of charge. Doctors have been requested to be on call by phone from 8 to 8 every day. If you think you have the symptoms, properly equipped medical teams come to you instead of you going to the hospital and taking the risk of contaminating others.

This is not China and it is not authoritarian. Unlike China, we live in a free, democratic country where mandates can be ignored and it is virtually impossible to seal borders, but for the most part everyone is cooperating. At the end of last week, a new mandate was passed requiring a distance of one meter between people in all public places. As a result, today, the greengrocer could only allow three people in the shop at a time, some bakers one at a time. Today, I was required to sanitize my hands before going in and wear disposable gloves while shopping. After paying, they invited me to sanitize my hands once again.

Despite the increasing number of new cases every day, the recovery rate is higher than in other countries. Tests and treatment are available to everyone, even foreigners, free of charge, no questions asked. Lucca and Tuscany are not yet formally locked down, but people are making incredible efforts to be careful as if it were. I would like to thank everyone who has written to check on us. We are well but have canceled our trip to Rome and are in self-imposed self-isolation. Trains are just too high-risk at the moment. The Italians are survivors, as history has proven. They have incredible resilience and courage in the face of calamity, and I feel strangely blessed to witness this. Be careful and be well.

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