via Corona Diaries
Jasmina Tesanovic is collecting and posting stories from her friends about the outbreak of Covid-19. Mine is one of them.
Ciao Jasmina. Hope you and your family are doing well. We’re in voluntary isolation, because of G.’s health issues, and I am not coming back to work for some time, and I hope my employers won’t fire me… I cannot risk bringing germs at home. If I need to go out, I take all the precautions, but I can’t find masks, so I wear scarves and gloves, take off my shoes as soon as I enter the door and wash my hands all the time. I am trying to protect myself and G., since it’s hard to understand what the government is doing to protect us: measures and ordinances have been very confusing since the beginning, and when they decided to declare the red zones, they made a huge mess by let the news leak out before the decrees were signed. As a result, a lot of morons ran away from the north to go back to the south of Italy, that was still relatively safe and with less cases of Covid-19. That’s the (in)famous italian way of life…. I guess you’d better stay away from this country for a while, because I seriously think our politicians have no idea how to properly manage extreme measures. I mean, what do you expect from a country where the prime minister’s counselor is an idiot from a reality show and where people say: well, I feel fine, why should I stay home for a flu? The most concerning thing is the state of our sanitary system: decades of fund cutting and tax evasion have destroyed everything, hospitals are already collapsing and a lot of doctors and nurses are already in quarantine or infected. And this is happening in the north of the country. Just wait for two weeks and we’ll see the same, in a larger scale, in the south, where the population is older and poorer. That’s why now I am scared for my parents… they need to go to two different hospitals this week for some very important check ups, and I am literally terrified they could catch something while there. Plus, a couple days ago, my brother who lives with them had a fever and cough… you can imagine how I felt! It seems it was only a bad cold because he went running on a freezy night, so he’s taking antibiotics and seems to be recovering very fast. But I swear I’ve lost five years of life just thinking about it.
Anyway, we’re trying to stay calm, to make activities at home. He’s lucky because he can smart work, but it’s not the same for me. I am not getting bored (for now), but I am trying to figure out what to do for the next weeks, because I am sure this situation will last for some months. This virus will be a milestone for everyone. Things won’t be the same again, and it’s our fault (in the largest sense possible)… Until now, very few people understood the relationship between the emergence of virus, disturbance of the ecosystem, and capitalism. Maybe from now on we just will have to learn how to live with new viruses constantly adapting to our way of life: viruses will change faster, will change their way of spreading and their lethality in parallel with the crisis of our system. We have loved dystopian movies and novels because of the thrills of the unknown, and now we’re in it and we’re scared, and we’re panicking, and everyone’s trying to act as a doctor or a virologist or a containment expert… I am trying to find some irony in all this, and there’s for sure some irony, like in all human things, but I haven’t enough distance because I am not living on the top of a mountain, but in a big city that will likely be the next one to be closed, after Milan, and even though I am quite healthy, my partner is not. Well, I hope I don’t seem too desperate :) I just wanted to share some feelings with you, and hope you’re safe and protected. How are you doing with all the plane travels and all the people you meet daily? Have you got anxiety episodes? Is your daughter fine? At this moment I really would love to be well versed in mathematics, to understand more about the mathematical models of epidemics or know more about political ecology. I was thinking I should write a pandemic diary, it would be a way to pass the time while secluded at home.
It’s official, all Italy is now ZONA ROSSA. The last time I was in a zona rossa was in Genova 2001.
It’s almost sure I am going to lose my actual job, the mayor of Rome said that taking public transportation is not safe, they’re extending permission for cars in the restricted traffic zone to help people go to work, but this won’t change anything for me, as I don’t drive. So, for this month I will get only half of my salary and don’t know what is going to happen next month. Last month I was sure that this would have been the happiest moment of my life: a quite steady small income, a new home with my partner, a lot of life projects… and in ten days everything has changed at an impressive pace. I guess I will have to adapt :)
I cannot sleep anymore. I’ve been up until 3 am scrolling the news, the number updates, I count the recovered people and the dead ones, and I oscillate between desperation and hope. In Italy, the infection curve is slowly going down in the first locked down areas, but we should see an impressive peak of infection in the centre and south next week, as the incubation time for the people who ran away from the north and went in contact with their families should expire in a few days, and I am scared as hell for my parents.
Conspiracy theories are gaining ground here, too. Fortunately, almost all the people I know are smart enough to trust science, but even the most trusted leftist sources I used to read are starting to say strange things, like…they make weird connections between the spreading of the virus and the arrival of US soldier in the italian military basis, like there’s an occupation coming and the virus was just an excuse. Some people also said the soldiers were already vaccinated against Covid-19. I don’t know, but this sounds crazy, even knowing the role USA played in Italy for seventy years, since WW2. The truth is: a scheduled training was in the program, but now it’s cancelled because of the pandemic, so no mystery or conspiracy at all. The other night I had a discussion with my younger brother who was bothered by my worries and told me I was falling into the “mediatic psychosis”. He’s living alone here in Rome, he’s a street musician and now can’t go out to raise a few bucks; we can not meet right now, as G. must avoid contact with people, so I am acting a bit like an anxious mom even if he’s almost 30… Hope he’ll stay safe and won’t go around too much. Then my parents at home…We really need to be grounded and think rationally. I hope we will be able to build something better after all this, I was talking about that with a friend just minutes ago. I like to think that people will learn solidarity and the value of protecting the more fragile people, but then I see the majority of us acting like nothing is happening and go mad. But I know everything will pass. We will need self-discipline, a steady mind, collaboration, empathy, solidarity, and we will finally put under discussion also the current production models, and the exploitation of our planet, and the distribution of wealth… At the end, everything will be fine :)
I made a short walk in my neighbourhood, fifteen minutes to go to the pharmacy, withdraw some cash for emergencies, buy some wine to relax on the couch after dinner, and I saw more people wearing protection. There are red or white stripes on the floor in every store, to help us keep the correct distance. The woman at the small grocery store told me I should have worn a mask. “We can’t find them” I told her, and I showed my homemade mask made of baking paper fixed in some way under my big blue scarf, tied around my neck.
Every time I come home, I leave my shoes in the garden, then clean my hands, put my clothes in the washing machine, and try to clean all the bags.
Hello! Yesterday evening our prime minister made another announcement, following the declaration of pandemic from the WHO. The measures to contain the pandemic are now stricter, it’s a kind of lockdown but without a complete lockdown, as manufacturers’ associations do not want to stop their productions and there are no social safety nets for certain categories of workers. The situation is always confused and contradictory, as people do not know for sure what they can or cannot do. The people who can work from home are lucky. But many workers – especially the ones who are in direct contact with the public, or the ones who work in non deferrable services – are on strike because they are not properly equipped to protect themselves while doing their jobs. Big unions are completely absent in the public debate about how to handle this situation, as far as I know, and it’s like we’re navigating by sight while expecting the worse. The saddest situation is in the jails: in the last few days we had riots in jails across all Italy. When the prisoners and their families heard of the anti-epidemic measures, they panicked because of the fear of the contagion and because all contacts with relatives were suspended, and riots began. More than ten people are reportedly dead, officially from overdose (as they assaulted the prisons’ infirmaries); we all saw the hundreds of policemen entering the jails in anti-riot gear but we did not see what happened inside. I guess that “dead from overdose” is the new “he accidentally fell from the stairs”. People protesting outside the jails in Rome have been beaten and arrested. There has been a spectacular prison break from a jail in the south of Italy, but many of the prisoners are already been caught and transferred in other jails, far from their families.
There are also a few cases of Covid-19 among prisoners and cops… Can you imagine a mass contagion in jails and its consequences? And we’re talking about jails that are already out of their capacity, in which no medical care is guaranteed even in ordinary conditions.
Today I went outside, bringing with me my self-declaration (we need to write on a piece of paper why we are outside our homes, in case the police want to check out) and the prescriptions for the pharmacy. It took me an hour to get ready before going outside, because I had an anxiety attack at every step. It’s not the quarantine itself, I am an introvert and I have always loved solitude, but now it’s different, because loneliness is not a choice and because we are doing something that hopefully is going to have a big impact on public health, so I feel responsible every time I have to go outside. I think there will be a lot of changes in the perception of collective behaviors, and maybe this could lead to new form of social control, like many are saying, but for now the most important thing is to contain the outbreak by diluting the velocity of the contagion, so hospitals won’t collapse too soon. We can talk about the rest later, and I am very sorry that not everyone is able to understand the gravity of the situation.
Today I am forty, and I am happy that at least I am allowed to spend this day with my partner. “Quarant’anni in quarantena” seems like an appropriate bitter-sweet pun for the occasion :)