How COVID-19 went from global to personal

When news of COVID-19 in China broke, I sympathized. It sounded like a horrible outbreak with so many people sick and dying.

But in my mind, the problem was “over there,” not close to me or anyone I know.

Then news broke about COVID-19 cases exploding in Italy. Seemingly overnight, people in a certain region were forced to quarantine.

Wait. What?

My daughter lives about a 45-minute drive from Venice with her Air Force husband. From my home in Texas, I heard the outbreak affected Northern Italy, but where exactly?

News reports said cases were in the Lombardy Region, including the city of Milan.

Was that close to where my daughter lives?

Would it stay contained in that region?

She had been looking forward to relatives visiting. For months, my sister and her family had planned their visit to Italy, securing passports, watching airfare for the right time to buy, planning all they would see, The Vatican, The Colisseum, The Statue of David, etc. 

I scoured the news multiple times a day for updates, for news of regions affected by lockdowns and number of cases being reported.

Of course, there was nothing I could do. Nothing anyone could do but wait and watch to see what would happen.

Life went on as normal with trains still running, businesses still open except in the Lombardy Region.

But it quickly spread. Major events in Venice, like Carnival, were cut short or cancelled.

That was too close, but I still held my breath hoping naively that her region would not be affected.

Then, February 25, all that wishful thinking came to a definite end.

And just like that….

Travel had not been restricted at that point (borders were open) and my daughter had taken a short trip to Amsterdam with friends.

Upon their arrival in Venice, they were greeted at the airport by officials checking temperatures of arriving travelers. They knew the home they were returning to was not the one they left just days before. 

All schools were to be closed the next day, February 26, but official lockdown still did not yet affect her town.

A few days later, she was at the town square enjoying an afternoon coffee with friends, who sat a safe social distance away. Then the police arrived and alerted the shop owner that were to officially closed. All patrons were sent home. 

They were in official lockdown, which meant no one could leave their own municipality and social gatherings were no longer allowed. Essential trips only, like for food or doctor appointments were allowed. 

What made this COVID-19/Quarantine situation all the more concerning was that her husband, my son-in-law, was deployed. She was alone at her home with her dog, Buster, and thank God for him.

Deadly virus, drastic measures

More people started dying from Coronavirus and the Italian government clamped down the restrictions. Borders were closed, essential travel only, be prepared to show documents.

I’m not sure how I would have managed in that situation, but I think she’s managed incredibly well.

Of course, a few short weeks later, cities all across the US would experience a similar outcome.

COVID-19 started affecting people in the US in early to mid-March, but for me, it started in February when it hit Italy.

After only three weeks of my city’s “Stay at home” order, I was feeling restless and asked my daughter if she had any advice about how to help others get through these strange times.

She offered these bits of wisdom:

  • This (COVID-19) is serious. People should take precautions now, because it spreads. And even when people knew it was spreading, they were still going on cruises and acting like nothing was happening.
  • As bad as it sucks to be locked down in your house, it’s what needs to be done. And better sooner than later.
  • Stay home. Listen to local officials. Keep your social distance. The sooner you just do it, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to life. 
  • Stay connected through chat groups, zoom calls. 
  • Some days you might be super-productive and some days you might just want to lie on the couch and do nothing. You gotta be okay with that. 
  • It’s better to stick to a routine. Get up, get dressed, let the dog out, make coffee. Just do the normal things you always do when you’re at home.

I agree with my daughter’s way of thinking and I understand that not everyone does. Official mandates have caused deep financial hardship for many people.

When will we be able to “get back to normal”? And what will “normal” look like?

Hopefully we’ll discover the answers to those questions in good health and better understanding.

For more insight into Quarantine in Italy, see Reporter’s Notebook: What Life Is Like In Rome Under Coronavirus Lockdown

Read more about my 2018 trip of a lifetime to Italy at Waiting for “someday” puts dreams out of reach, Riposo (a time for afternoon rest) is a serious Italian tradition, and Wayside altars in Italy