“Their will is very hard to break, and I’m sure they’ll get out of it even stronger,” Andrea Melchiorre, an MSU graduate student from Milan, Italy, said of Italy and their citizens' fight against the COVID-19 virus currently tearing through their country.
According to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center, Italy has surpassed China in the number of Coronavirus deaths. The country, especially cities in the northern region such as Milan and Bergamo, has been slammed by the COVID-19 virus. According to Denise Chow and Emmanuelle Saliba of NBC, Hospitals are overflowing and medical providers are having to turn patients away.
Melchiorre spoke of his family’s experience with the spread of the Coronavirus in Italy and the implications it has for the virus’s spread in the United States.
“Lombardy, the region where I’m from, is the most hit region in Italy,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre said the virus started affecting daily life in Italy much like it has been affecting the U.S. so far. That is, it began with a progressive shutdown of public gatherings.
“It kind of started like it did here. A lot of people just thought it’s like a common flu, it’s not going to be a big deal, and then things were starting to close, they stopped sporting events, they closed schools,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre’s mother, an elementary school teacher, has been unable to work for a month.
Currently, the country of Italy is in a full lockdown in efforts of containing and slowing the spread of the virus.
“You cannot get in your car and go out and drive wherever because the police would stop you and ask you where you’re going, and if you weren’t going to the grocery store or a certain job that is essential, they could fine you,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre cautioned against the mindset of viewing the virus as something foreign that will remain contained in some far-off country.
“It’s a virus, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre said, while the U.S. is taking precautionary measures with social distancing, he thinks many still do not realize the severity of the situation.
“I talked to my family today, and they’re still very surprised how shops and restaurants are still open here. Some restaurants have implemented curbside pickup, or some closed or some just say, ‘Hey, use some hand sanitizer before you come in,’ but I think that people still don’t understand the gravity of the virus itself,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre clarified, saying he was not necessarily talking about the gravity of the virus in terms of the mortality rate, but the crippling effects the rapidly-spreading virus is having on the healthcare system in Italy.
“It’s not just how many people get it, but the problem is how many people need to be in the ICU, and they have to stay there for 10 days or a week or two weeks and there are not enough rooms for all the people, and so that’s what’s really hurting hospitals and healthcare workers,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre also said the mentality that younger people do not need to worry about the Coronavirus is misguided. His parents have told him of teenagers and college-aged students in the hospitals in Italy on ventilators, not just older people.
While Melchiorre said it has been hard to see and hear the news of what is happening in Italy, especially with his 60-year-old parents and sisters who work for the Red Cross living in the epicenter of the outbreak, Melchiorre is confident they are taking the necessary steps to prevent contracting the virus.
“(My mom) worries more about me being here than her being in Italy in a lockdown,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre said Italians did not succumb to panic when put on lockdown, rather they rallied with positive spirits and did what they needed to do to slow the spread.
“They just came together and realized it was for the greater good so they decided to take action and stay home,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre spoke of the tenacious spirits of the Italian people, citing videos circulating the internet of neighbors in Italy going out on their balconies at the same time and singing together.
“Oh, I mean the Italian people, they just never give up. Honestly, they take on struggles with a smile on their face always—try to always see the positive in times of struggles, hard times,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre urged his peers in the U.S. not to be fearful but to do their part in flattening the curve and protecting their nation from such an unprecedented and deadly threat.
“I think that we can’t be scared, but we definitely should be aware of it, check on reliable sources of what to do, follow basic hygiene practices and definitely do our part and help each other and build each other up,” Melchiorre said.