LETTER: ADVICE FROM ITALY ABOUT PREPARING FOR COVID-19

St. Marks Square, Venice, Italy. Photo: Maxpixel.net

I live in Italy and we are currently under lockdown. My region is relatively calm. We have 148 cases of Covid-19 and 8 deaths, but the country’s daily death toll as you know, is far far higher. I want to share a few of my experiences that will perhaps provide a window into what to expect: 

1. You must stay inside now, even if it doesn’t seem like the virus is close. It has a 14 day incubation period with symptomless transmission. I hear there are a few cases in Western Mass. Given this–you must assume it already spreading in the community. You must cancel all gatherings and any obligations you can. This will save lives, it will “flatten the curve”.  A lot of people in Italy were (are!) running around going to bars. Don’t be those people. It will be boring, but you need to stay home. 

2.  Anticipate supply problems (fast!) when the virus hits. Yesterday evening the Italian government closed all businesses aside from grocery stores and a few key places like the post office and banks. This morning I sent my husband Pierre to stock up on supplies –paper towels, crackers, salt, oil, soap. By this evening, the stores were 100% cleared of ALL fruits and veggies, also soap and disinfectant. The supply chain for fruit and veggies at the most important supermarket chain here has been cut north of Bologna. I say this not to scare anyone, but rather to show how truly *quickly* things change. Be proactive. Don’t horde, but be sure you have thermometers, dish soap, dog food –all the stuff you would need for a long snow day. 

3. Anxiety can cause its own problems that impact your health, so create habits now to curb the impacts of fear and trauma. I had a rather harrowing journey getting back to Italy from London via Slovenia and crossing the border just before it closed. Now I am experiencing some strong PTSD symptoms and its kind of a struggle to get my body into a condition where it’s best prepared to fight the illness. Which leads to my next point…

4. Get sunlight and exercise. Take Vitamin D, which helps with all respiratory illnesses and there is some evidence suggesting it helps diminish the serious effects of this coronavirus–i.e. penetrating deep into your lungs. Stay as active and healthy as you can, and keep your house well-ventilated. 

There are lots of reasons to be hopeful. Here in Italy, new networks of solidarity and care are emerging. Our healthcare professionals are doing an amazing job–be sure to support your healthcare workers where you live! And of course, spring is just around the corner. 

Light and love and solidarity to all, 

Eleanor Finley

Eleanor Finely is a cultural and ecological anthropologist currently pursuing a doctorate at UMass. She lives in Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy

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