“I am writing to you from Bergamo, Italy, at the heart of the coronavirus crisis.
The news media in the US has not captured the severity of what is happening here. I am writing this post because each of you, today not the government, not the school district, not the mayor – each individual citizen, has the chance to take actions that will deter the Italian situation from becoming your own country’s reality.
The only way to stop this virus is to limit contagion. And the only way to limit contagion is for millions of people to change their behavior today.
If you are in Europe or the US, you are weeks away from where we are today in Italy. I can hear you now. ‘It’s just a flu. It only affects old people with preconditions.’
There are two reasons why coronavirus has brought Italy to its knees. First, it is a flu, but it is devastating when people get really sick and need weeks in the ICU.
And second, because of how fast and effectively it spreads. There is a 2-week incubation period, and many who have it never show symptoms.
When Prime Minister Conte announced last night, the entire country (60 million people) would go on lockdown, the line that struck me most was, ‘There is no more time.’ Because to be clear, this national lockdown is a hail mary. What he means is if the number of contagions do not start to go down, the system, Italy, will collapse.
Why? Today the ICUs in Lombardy are at capacity – more than capacity. They have begun to put ICU units in the hallways.
If the numbers do not go down, the growth rate of contagion tells us there will be thousands of people who, in a matter of a week or two, will need care. What will happen when there are 100, or 1,000 people, who need the hospital and only a few ICU places are left?
On Monday, a doctor wrote in the paper that they have to decide who lives and who dies when the patients show up in the emergency room – like what is done in war. This will only get worse.
There are a finite number of doctors, nurses, and medical staff who are getting the coronavirus. They have also been working non-stop for days and days. What happens when the doctors, nurses, and medical staff cannot care for the patients when they are not there?
And finally, for those who say this is just something that happens to old people, starting yesterday, the hospitals are reporting younger and younger patients – 40, 45, 18, – are coming in for treatment.
You have a chance to make a difference and stop the spread in your country. Push for the entire office to work at home today; cancel birthday parties and other gatherings; stay home as much as you can. If you have a fever stay home, and push for school closures, now.
Do anything you can to stop the spread. Because it is spreading in your communities – there is a two-week incubation period – and if you do these things now, you can buy your medical system time.
And for those who say it is not possible to close the schools and do all these other things, locking down Italy was beyond anyone’s imagination a week ago. Soon you will not have a choice, so do what you can now.”
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