After nearly 10 weeks of lockdown, we are nearly at the end of Phase 1. Tomorrow Phase 2 begins here in Italy. The entire country is ready to have a little more freedom, putting the worst behind us and moving forward. You can read about what Phase 2 will look like in my previous post. As we enter into the new phase, here’s what I’ll remember:
I love shrimp but I have yet to embrace the Italian way of eating shrimp. Most of the time, here in Italy, shrimp is served intact. I’ve watched with deep admiration as Italians artfully dismember the little creatures as they eat them. I really have tried to learn this skill but, sadly, I end up embarrassing myself and making a mess. Not artful at all. I suppose I need more practice.
Last night, Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, explained to all of Italy what life will look like as we enter into Phase 2 of containment measures. Phase 1 of the lockdown ends next week on May 4 and for several weeks now, many have been asking and wondering when the details of Phase 2 would be revealed. Although the new measures are a bit vague on some details, one thing is very sure and that is the continued enforcement of social distancing in every area of public life. The new phase is laid out in a 70 page document released last night. Here are the highlights:
Like so many others, during quarantine, I’ve made an effort to create a rhythm to daily life for my family. I try to find ways to enjoy simple pleasures. One of the ways I’ve sought to do that is making our meals special. Whether it’s trying new recipes, perfecting favorite dishes, or having fun with the table setting, making mealtimes an event helps us to look forward to something pleasurable, something that brings us comfort. There’s a reassuring comfort in a favorite dish and excitement in trying something new. I love that around 2 p.m. every afternoon my youngest son asks the same question, “What’s for dinner?” It makes me giggle because it’s evident he’s anticipating and thinking of what’s to come.
Today, as we enter the 9th week of lockdown here in Milan, there are 181,228 cases and 24,114 deaths in Italy. In the neighborhood I live in there are 107 cases with 14 fatalities. Thankfully, the number of daily new cases continues to drop and slowly, too slowly for us here, the daily death rate is declining.
Yesterday, I, along with millions of people around the world, watched Andrea Bocelli give a live stream concert from the Duomo of Milan. The mayor of Milan, Bepe Sala, had invited him to give the concert as a gift to people of Milan, and indeed the world, on Easter Sunday.
As of yesterday the number of cases of COVID-19 in Italy reached 105,792 with 12,428 deaths. Here in Lombardy there are 43,208 cases, and 7,199 deaths. As bleak as those numbers are there has been one encouraging sign in the last few days. Yesterday we saw the lowest amount of new cases in the last 13 days. Although the number of deaths continues to hover between 700 to almost 1,000 a day, the rate of infection has slowed down. On March 21 there was a daily increase of 6,557 new cases. Yesterday, March 31, there were 4,053 new cases.
This week brought horrific losses here in Lombardy. Yesterday, there were 627 deaths in Italy, the highest number yet. Sadly, this brings the number of deaths in Italy to 4,032, making Italy the country with the most deaths attributed to Coronavirus.
Of the 47,021 cases of Coronavirus, 22,264 of them have occurred here in Lombardy. To date, the hardest hit provinces with the most deaths are Bergamo (5,154), Brescia (4,648), and Milan (3,804). This week there have been so many deaths in the town of Bergamo that the Italian army has been called in to transport coffins (see the videos below). Morgues are full, cemeteries are at the brink, and because of the stringent measures in place prohibiting gatherings, the dead do not get the funeral they deserve. Mourning families who weren’t allowed to be at the bedside of their loved one, not allowed to comfort and reassure them as they suffered through their last moments, are left doubly heartbroken.
Last night the Protezione Civile, who hold a daily press conference announcing the dreaded COVI-19 numbers of the day, announced that the “peak” they anticipated would happen by Sunday, March 22, is nowhere in sight. They don’t know, they can’t predict when it will come.
The mood here in Lombardy has shifted from laughing at funny quarantine videos and singing on balconies, to that of shock, disbelief and grieving. As I write this, a friend is in the hospital, gasping for air, fighting COVID-19 alone. He is my age with a wife and two young children. Another friend, mother of 7, and her teenage son have the symptoms of the virus, fever and cough. Not a good sign, but I’m hopeful they’ll only have a mild case.
As the death toll climbs the government is cracking down on its citizens, handing out fat fines to those who are out for no good reason. Until recently, here in Lombardia, lone joggers and dog walkers have been going out (as I did) citing a health necessity. Now, it seems even those activities are discouraged. I haven’t walked my dog in almost a week. I’m thankful I have a yard where my dog can chase a ball and get some exercise and where, on a clear day, we can enjoy the precious afternoon sunshine. I know most in the Milan metro area do not have the luxury of a small yard. Most are quarantined in small, cramped apartments, their only escape is a balcony or a view out a window.
Today, I went through photos, reliving happier times. I found some beautiful photos of Bergamo (see below) taken by my son, a blossoming photographer and videographer. Bergamo is a short 40 minute drive from here and we often go there to enjoy the views from the Citta Alta, the old medieval heart of the city that sits on a hill, walls in tact, with stunning views of the valley on one side and the Alps on the other. I know one day we’ll return to take a passeggiata and eat brasato at our favorite restaurant. Until then, I pray for the city, that their citizens would heal, and that all the losses in Lombardy, and the rest of the country, would come to an end.