CORONAVIRUS: LOSSES IN LOMBARDY, PART 2

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.

The Italian army transporting coffins.
Coffins lined up in a cemetery in Bergamo.

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.

CORONAVIRUS: LOSSES IN LOMBARDY

Last night, as all of Italia received the news of the latest COVID-19 numbers, you could almost hear a collective, national sigh of grief. 368 people died in a single day, the highest number of deaths in one day so far. The new death toll is 1,809 nationally, 1,218 of those deaths are here in Lombardy. As we approach the peak of the virus this week, we’re bracing ourselves for the worst.

This morning, as I read the local news and as I skimmed through the headlines, I read story after story of the suffering in Bergamo, a town 40 minutes north of here. Of all the provinces of Lombardy, Bergamo has suffered the worst losses. One article in particular brought me to tears. The author describes the situation in Bergamo with chilling detail: a burial takes place every half hour, everyone has either lost someone or knows someone who has died, a whole generation is being wiped out. He goes onto to say that, in Bergamo, no one is singing or clapping from their balconies. He ends his article with these words:

“Perhaps this massive loss of life has not been understood nationally and internationally because we are a reserved people, we don’t like the limelight. Yet we would like to shout out to all the world: stay at home, protect yourself. This storm named Coronavirus is taking a generation away from our society, a wealth of wisdom and love: there is no time to waste. Who can and has understood holds loved ones as if under a display case, venerates them as a relic. Protect them against any contact with the outside world, because outside this invisible glass it would be the end for them. No, even if we wanted to, we could not sing and applaud on our balconies: our hearts are swollen with pain.”

Pray for Bergamo, pray for Lombardy, pray for Italy. May this come to an end soon.