I took a trip to Italy the day of the outbreak in COVID-19 cases
I arrived in Milan February 22, 2020 and was part of the large group of people who underestimated the virus. A part of me thought while leaving the US, “there’s no way I should be allowed to travel” but I figured if the situation was that severe then flights would be canceled. My temperature was taken as soon as I arrived at the Milan airport. I just thought they were being safe with the virus spreading around Asia. I figured the canceled trains were just part of Italy ‘being Italy’ but quickly learned that these weren't the cases. The outbreaks in Italy spread faster than anyone could have predicted or anticipated. I arrived in Bologna Saturday afternoon, and settled in by planning my future trips around Italy and Europe for the next few days. My boyfriend informed me there was an outbreak of COVID-19 cases around Milan and instead I should be in quarantine. Now, I know I didn’t have this virus – I don’t touch anything when I’m traveling and if I do I sanitize my hands anyway. I knew the chances of me getting the virus was slim. However, I knew how dangerous this virus was because I'd been following the story since the beginning. I knew it was risky for the elderly (aka most of Italy) and just to be extra safe I planned to quarantine for 14-days. During those first 14-days everything changed in Italy. Even in the first week, when schools were closed and no one knew the extent of the situation. There were people walking around, going to parks, clubs, bars, etc. as if it was a regular week. However, once news reports started coming out of Milan and toward the second week of my quarantine, you couldn’t find anyone on the streets. The city center was empty, bars were at less than half capacity, and everyone was wearing masks. After the second week, teachers and students started to understand they weren’t going back to school soon, and the situation was serious. By the third week there was a decree that schools would close until the beginning of April, social distancing is mandatory, and travel around the city would be only for those going to the pharmacy, gas, grocery store, or hospital. Traveling nationally would have to be pre-approved and for reasonable circumstances. This was the first big step I saw in Italy, realizing those who have been infected might have transmitted it to thousands of others unknowingly. I watched Italy quickly go from 79 cases to just about 30,000 in three weeks. Masks, sanitizers, and gloves were gone in a matter of days. The panic was something I've never seen before. However, I believe Italy’s constant testing at airports and on trains is commendable. Their strict travel requirements and closing borders was something swift and necessary. Now, Italians are very strict with social distancing, posting notices from the commune on their business’ doors and enforcing the 1 meter rule. You see lines outside of businesses, and supermarkets only allowing two people in the store at a time. I believe this will be crucial in curving the amount of cases. As you’ve probably seen on social media, Italians are singing from balconies and coming together as a community. It is a country coming together and recognizing the hospitals are not equipped to handle the amount of cases they have at the moment or expect to have in the next few weeks. That's something amazing. Two social media campaigns: #IoRestoACasa (I stay at home) and #AndràTuttoBene (Everything will be okay) emerged during this time. Signifying that they are united in this situation and that everyone should do their part by respecting the rules. It is a glimmer of hope on social media for a country so overwhelmed with this virus. We are seeing this in other other European countries and The United States of America who are just starting to react to the pandemic. Other countries can learn a lot from how Italy handled this situation. They were one of the first countries hit outside Asia, and it was absolutely devastating. I commend anyone who works in emergency response fields: military, police, nurses, paramedics, doctors, and even the everyday heroes that come forward to help. Celebrities donating and supporting their country is something we see when disaster strikes and this is something we often expect, but at the same time we should recognize that they don’t have to do this. Chiara and Federico (Fedez) Ferragni raised over 4 million euro, €100,000 of which they personally donated, for a hospital in Milan. Donatella Versace, and her daughter, shortly followed suit and donated €200,000 to the same hospital in Milan. In a matter of days, they put their money to work opening new facilities. These are proud Italians who know how much their country needs them.