Italy provides a glimpse of what’s coming soon to the rest of Europe, the USA, and other parts of the world.
Here’s what’s happening in the Italian city of Parma:
The intensive care units are now all full. Hospital wards are spilling out into corridors, tents, car parks, gardens and commercial warehouses. We are hearing words – like “triage” – which are usually associated with warfare. Medics and nurses are having to make decisions on which patients to prioritise. Some doctors have died, and others have compared the numbers of admissions to dealing with “an earthquake every day”.Source: The Guardian (Mar 15)
There are also reports of prison riots breaking out, including prisoners escaping and several prisoners being killed.
From that same piece:
What’s intriguing is that all the adjectives you might normally use to describe Italy (sociable, excitable, chaotic, undisciplined, polemical, fun and – despite all its troubles – somehow optimistic) have become redundant. It feels completely the opposite: isolated, calm, orderly, obedient, cowed, dour and pessimistic. It’s as if the country has suddenly discovered a different, maybe deeper, side. It’s a sterner, more serious place.
Meanwhile in Las Vegas:
Buffets are closing, nightclubs and day clubs are shuttering, conventions are cancelling and putting people out of jobs and resorts are using thermal cameras to screen guests for fevers – a symptom of the coronavirus causing grocery store calamity and self-imposed isolation across the globe.
Yet thousands of people are walking up and down the Las Vegas Strip.
They pick through Sin City t-shirts at Planet Hollywood. They pack the buffet at Bally’s, one of the few left open. They stand elbow-to-elbow at crosswalks.
They lean over the edge at the Fountains of Bellagio and wait for the music to begin.
Sitting near the food court in Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops is 41-year-old Burt Harshman, a hulking construction worker from Kansas.
He’s been in town since Tuesday for CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 – one of the conventions that went on as planned despite coronavirus concerns.
“I think it’s stupid,” Harshman said of coronavirus fallout. “All of it.”
To his left is another construction guy named Mitch Evans, a 31-year-old worker also in town for the convention.
“You know how much money Las Vegas is losing because people are freaking out?” Evans asked.
“The whole country’s losing money,” Harshman said. “If we’re not tough enough to deal with a bug, society has gotten to be a bunch of pansies.”Source: USA Today (Mar 14)
This week some of those people who were “partying through the apocalypse” on the Vegas Strip will start showing flu-like symptoms. Some will take the illness back home with them and infect more people. And more people will die as a result in the weeks and months ahead.
We know that the coronavirus is already on the Vegas Strip, as multiple infections have already been detected there, including among employees who’ve been working there.
Despite multiple calls not to do so, including from local unions, the Clark County School District still intends to keep all Vegas public schools open for classes as usual on Monday. That’s a mistake that will cost lives. Do not open the schools.
Of the 83,083 people worldwide who have “completed” their coronavirus infections so far, 6,485 (7.9%) completed it by dying rather than recovering. By the time you’re reading this, those numbers will have gone up.
The attitude that many Americans still exude is the same kind of attitude that Italians initially had when the virus outbreak began there. This attitude isn’t far removed from the attitude of the construction workers visiting Las Vegas.
This attitude isn’t courage or bravado. It isn’t optimism. It’s irrationality.
How well does irrationality work with a pandemic? It doesn’t.
The Italians know this all too well, and they’re trying to warn the rest of the world not to react as they initially did because each day that they delayed is now costing them more lives and more time under lockdown.
Yesterday 175 people died from the virus in Italy. Today their death toll is more than double that – 368 so far. More than 1800 people have died there in the past 3 weeks. And this will keep going up and up and up for a while longer.
So far we have over 3300 known cases in the USA, and we’re still severely under-testing. Italy added more than this many new cases (about 3600) just in the past 24 hours. It won’t be long before the USA is reporting that many new cases daily, and then we’ll blow right past that.
So far only 63 people have died from this virus in the USA. That seems like hardly anything, right? But it’s the exponential growth rate that we need to pay attention to. Two weeks ago (on March 1st), Italy had reported only 34 coronavirus deaths.
The U.S. population is about 5.5 times that of Italy. But in terms of the quality of our medical system, we actually lag behind theirs, so we’re even less prepared for this than they are.
The U.S. federal response to this virus has been underwhelming to say the least. More governors and mayors are expressing major frustration with federal agencies to get their acts together. The governor of my home state called the situation “infuriating.”
Here’s the current result of the recent travel restrictions from Europe and what the Mayor of Chicago thinks of it:
Soon the U.S. death toll will be in the hundreds, then the thousands, then the tens of thousands, and then the hundreds of thousands. The sooner we change our tune and listen to what Italy, China, and other parts of the world are trying to warn us about, the fewer casualties we’ll have at the tail end, and the less time we’ll all need to be in lockdown.
The USA is gradually figuring this out, albeit slowly. Those states and cities that are further along the infection curve are figuring this out sooner. New York City is already considering a lockdown.
If you encounter anyone who’s still saying that this is “just the flu” or “media hype” or any other B.S. like that, do what you can to educate them and persuade them to stretch towards rational behavior. Also do what you can to block or derail them from spreading further irrationality and getting more people killed. You’ll be saving lives.
Invest your energy where you can help turn the ship from incompetence to rationality as best you can. This is a situation where we must lean into action. Remind yourself that even if you get a bit of social blowback, you could actually be saving many lives by taking action even a few hours sooner.
This will not be over quickly. That’s the reality we must accept.
When we do go into lockdown, the time there will likely be measured in months. It’s unrealistic to assume that we’ll be through this in a couple of weeks and that things will be back to normal within a month. This situation will get way more serious for many weeks before it starts getting better. We need to surrender to spending this entire Spring very differently.
In the meantime do your part to get the word out that people need to Stay the Fuck Home.
Update: A few hours after I posted this, the Governor of Nevada announced that all schools are closed. Same goes for New York City. We’re making progress, but we need to go even faster.