I’ve used this blog to talk about wonderful times with wonderful people. And for weeks those same people have been on the front lines of a battle to prevent the spread of a terrible virus to the rest of the world… and they have stood pretty much alone. Some have been working from their homes. Others have been unable to visit their aging parents- for fear they may contaminate them. Many are still in an imposed 15-day quarantine, staring at the four walls of their homes, while the sun is shining and the birds are chirping outside. I think of you all. Needless to say all museums, churches, schools, restaurants and bars are closed. Milan looks like a ghost town. And the Trevi Fountain in Rome had less visitors than ever this week. It sounds like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie. But it’s their grim reality.
Italy has taken a brave stand. And when we see the rapid acceleration of contagion, despite their superhuman efforts to contain it, we begin to understand how difficult this battle is ramping up to be. On March 4th, Italy had “only” 3089 cases. On March 13 the number had exploded to 17,660, with 1266 dead and 1328 in “reanimation”. This mortality rate is surprising. Experts say that 80% of the cases have only mild symptoms and get well on their own. It’s the other 20% that is the problem. They must be hospitalized and nearly half of that group will die. Italy’s medical resources are being stretched to their limits.
And now the Coronavirus is in France. Ironically, France hit the 3000-case threshold yesterday, exactly where Italy had been only nine days before. If this epidemic develops here at the same rate as in Italy, nine days from now we can expect nearly 18,000 cases and over 1200 dead. A sad state of affairs. France has announced the closure of all schools and universities, and has outlawed any public assembly of more than 100 people. However, the bars and restaurants are still open- which could be a mistake. Masks and hand sanitizer are out of stock (curiously, no run on toilet paper, as in the USA). Tomorrow (March 15th) is municipal election day in France. I will be interested to see if they impose further measures afterwards. There will be a lot of congregating at the polls tomorrow. Germs being spread…
While I have worried from a distance about my Italian friends over the last few weeks, yesterday I better understood what they are living through. I woke early and turned my guest bedroom back into a home workout area. I won’t be going to the gym I normally frequent for a month. The small church I attend in Cannes announced it’s closure for the next two weeks, so I won’t be playing the drums there or teaching Sunday School for a while. Then there is my job. I teach English. Yesterday I wrote messages to all students and parents, announcing the end of lessons until further notice. I spent the entire day cooped up in my home, the first of many to come. It was a bit boring. And then I received a text from Rox. Would I like to join her, Luigi and Fio for a virtual visit of an Italian museum? I jumped at the chance. At 5:30 sharp the four of us were there. Group chatting on our phones via Whatsapp, while sitting at our computers and touring the museum.
We spent an hour together. We figured out how to use the site. We got lost. Some of us waited for others to catch up. We joked around and we laughed together. A lot like we do on those rare occasions when we get to ride together. It was so wonderful, it brings tears to my eyes just to write about it. Because it was full of Hope. Hope for better, brighter days. Hope that we will weather this storm and see each other again. This global crisis will eventually end, and perhaps we will all be more thankful for everything that God has blessed us with, once on the other side.
For those who read this message, I wish you well. I wish you health, courage and wisdom for the upcoming days and weeks. As Andrea, yet another Italian friend said: Let’s stand strong and beat this monster.