Italy is in the midst of a full-blown second wave coronavirus outbreak, along with the entire continent of Europe. But why? Italy, especially, is a puzzle. The nation — the hardest hit in Europe — hasn’t had this many deaths and positive tests since May. At that time, they quarantined the entire northern half of the country in the most draconian crackdown in Europe.
When they emerged, the Italians vowed to do things “right.” On Wednesday, the death toll topped 125 and shows no sign of easing.
What’s particularly troubling about the return of COVID in Italy is that the country has done everything experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have been advising. Face masks in public places have been compulsory for months, social distancing is strongly enforced, nightclubs have never reopened, and sporting arenas are at less than a third of capacity. Children who are back at school are regularly tested and strictly social-distanced, and yet, the second wave seems completely unstoppable.
There hasn’t been much real opposition or pushback from folks tired of the virus restrictions. That’s what overflowing hospitals and thousands of old people dying of COVID in their homes will do. The Italians were genuinely scared and obeyed the government regulations.
While ruling out another full lockdown, Italian health officials are instead urging people to limit their own movements, even as concern grows that by keeping them at their homes, they are inadvertently encouraging private parties where the spread seems to be the worst at the moment. Italy’s health ministry released data this week showing that 80.3 percent of the new infections “occur at home” while only 4.2 percent come from recreational activities and schools.
Well, there’s no accounting for stupidity.
To some degree, the increase in positive tests is the result of very aggressive testing. The government tested 180,000 people on Wednesday — a record. Naturally, that means more cases were found. It also means more asymptomatic cases were discovered — people who might carry the disease but never get sick themselves.
But authorities are very concerned still that despite all the best efforts to contain the spread, it simply cannot be stopped. The government’s experts insist that the rate of contagion among schoolchildren is not the driving factor; but young people who feel confident they won’t get very sick and insist on gathering socially may be. Now major cities like Milan, Rome, and Naples have evening curfews to try to stop young people from gathering socially, which seems to be contributing to the spread. [Infecious disease specialist Walter] Ricciardi [Italy’s version of Dr. Anthony Fauci] said most of the contagion that happens within multigenerational homes comes from young people bringing it in.
So what’s to be done? Masks aren’t helping. Social distancing isn’t working. Lockdowns failed. Why?
The efforts of the government to protect us from Mother Nature were destined to be futile. It’s like hoping your backyard fence protects you from a tsunami. The coronavirus is a life form that will survive and thrive wherever it wants. It doesn’t pay attention to masks. If it can’t get past a mask, it goes around it and infects someone else somewhere else — that includes people six feet away. It’s a basic, primitive form of life whose only purpose in being alive is to replicate itself. It does that by taking up residence in a human host and begin to reproduce.
I think public health officials are at a loss on what to do because they lack the imagination to see the big picture. We are going to be living with this coronavirus for a while — maybe a long while. It’s time we started imagining a world with it rather than hoping for a world without it.
The latter world is desirable. The former is messy, distasteful, and will sometimes be deadly. “You can’t always get what you want,” said the famous philosopher Mick Jagger. Perhaps if Fauci and other “experts” started thinking that way, our lives would improve.
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