Italy …. A Virus & A Sell Out Combined?

People have referred to Italy as a kind of ‘marker’ in the battle against Covid 19. They’ll say, ‘oh, look at how high the numbers are?’ Leaders have told us, “We may become like Northern Italy!”

I was married to a dentist, and have physician friends. One of my favorite courses in school was physiology, the study of the human body. When you naturally love a subject, and have people around you with whom you can get feedback, you learn keys. So, I’ve always been interested in health and wanting to know how to avoid getting sick!

There’s a tremendous amount of reporting on the Covid 19 virus, much of it fearful, repetitive facts. And much of it by those with no medical knowledge who pretend to know more than they do. It’s frustrating getting the facts straight, but to be fair, we are living thru a rapidly evolving situation that we haven’t faced before as a nation. Anyway, looking at what happened in Italy prior to the outbreak helps us understand the huge toll the Italian people have suffered. Hopefully the U.S. and others can learn from this.

There are several key reasons why Italy got caught in the clutches of the Covid 19 pandemic. Many think of the viral outbreak as a medical or scientific catastrophe, but it’s actually a multi-layered issue when you read articles from people who live there. Following are stats on the tragedy –

  1. Italy suffered a higher death rate from the Covid 19 virus in part because it has the 2nd oldest population in the world. 23% of the population is over 65, compared to the U.S. where only 16% are over age 65. While Italy has had the 6th longest life expectancy in the world, fewer children are being born to Italians. Japan, for example, has 28% of their population over the age of 65, but their case #’s were far below those in Italy. Lock downs, and testing were the two ways Japan immediately controlled the spread.
  2. Italians have taken a big hit as they have a different sense of ‘personal space’ from some other cultures. The elderly mingle with youth ‘often’. They often live together, but work apart. “They simply are not used to distance in personal relationships”, said one journalist.
  3. The section of Italy hit most severely is the North, the part of the country that has a ‘dense population’. Italy has 533 people per sq. mile, whereas the U.S. has only 94 pr. sq. mi. Two thirds of the population of Italy live in urban areas. The city of Milan, in the North, is a hub of the financial district, and has a density of 19,000 citizens per sq. mi. That’s twice the density of Berlin, Wash. D.C. Those quaint towns in Italy/Europe where people live so close and mingle easily in city squares, cafes only help a virus move fast in a population..
  4. Milan is the financial center of Italy, with close trade, educational ties to China. No Italy/Milan is home to a multitude of multi-national corps, where people travel to and from all over the world.
  5. It was reported by several sources that when the first coronavirus patients entered Italian hospitals they weren’t segregated from the main population in the hospital, thus allowing the virus to spread to other patients in the hospitals. Also, Dr’s and medical staff were not properly protected from the covid patients, and became some of the first patients to come down with the virus, creating another medical crises.
  6. The sheer mass numbers of cases has been a devastating side to the tragedy in Italy. Italy has a population of 60+ ml compared to America’s 337 ml, which makes the Italian epidemic more devastating.
  7. To me and others, perhaps the most telling aspect re: the travesty in Italy has been the way recent Italian leaders have allowed Chinese businesses unprecedented power to buy out Italian banks, telecom, industrial & fashion companies against existing Italian & EU laws. The leaders diverted funds for the hospital/health system in Italy, raised taxes four times. They allowed tens of thousands of Chinese from Wuhan entry to their country before the virus started in Dec. ’19. Their health system failed to track & share info on the virus until it had spread too far too fast. Italian leaders were looking at the wealth it was bringing in from China, and not prepared for the danger lurking below.

An Italian American lady waiting to get out of the house –

On the other hand nations like  Taiwan, Australia, S. Korea, etc have not had the extreme infection rate, or economic lock down as the U.S. has. Taiwan Health Dept. sensed immediately that the illness in travelers returning from China was not normal, and asked China for permission to visit. While in China they saw the secrecy, terror in China as the virus began to take center stage in Chinese affairs, and they rushed home. Taiwan officials quickly put into place a quarantine for those who were sick, a contact check protocol, and citizens were advised on other protocols like taking temps of their children before they went off to school.

On the Sunday News talk shows yesterday I heard several governors share their hope in the contact lists, testing protocols in order to get our economy back up. We need to ramp up those efforts in the U.S., I believe, and emulate the success of other nations.

Ref:   Antonio Masiello – WIRED  (3/17/20)

         The CONVERSATION  –  “5 Reasons Why the Coronavirus Hit Italy So Hard”

Giacomino Nicolazzo, American-Italian author

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