LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE…. – A LITTLE BIT OF THIS, A LOT OF THAT…..

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE….

THE LATEST: A total ban on travel outside of town or city in which you are living, even if it is not your home residence or domicile. Literally everyone in Italy is in quarantine.

What I offer today is an amalgam of information gleaned from both Vatican news sources and secular papers about what is happening in our land in this coronavirus time. The EWTN Rome staff receives a copy of the Italian daily La Repubblica via Whatsapp and I loosely translated (with Google’s help) what I found on one page of today’s paper: a literal summary of what can be open in Italy and what must close – everything regarding activities, industries, institutions (government and not). You will see that under the title “MANDATORY CLOSURES AND REDUCED ACTIVITIES.”

Orate pro nobis! And we are praying for you!

A LITTLE BIT OF THIS, A LOT OF THAT…..

FROM HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE: Until further notice, the Holy Mass, celebrated in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence at 7:00 every morning, the Angelus prayer and the Holy Father’s Wednesday General Audiences will be broadcast live on television by Vatican Media and streamed on the Vatican News website (www.vaticannews.va) and images of the events will be distributed by Vatican Media to the media who request them, in order to reach the faithful from all over the world.

FROM THE PAPAL ALMONER: This morning, the almsgiver of His Holiness went to the Generalate of the Daughters of San Camillo in Grottaferrata and to the Congregation of the Angelic Sisters of San Paolo on via Casilina. Since last Friday, both communities have been in isolation because many of the religious have been found positive for coronavirus. To make them feel the closeness and affection of the Holy Father in this moment of harsh trial and difficulty, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski brought some products of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo as a gift, such as fresh milk and yogurt. The same donation also took place for the John XXIII retirement home, managed by the Sisters of Charity Association. The facility was quarantined after finding two positive coronavirus cases among healthcare professionals.

FROM THE ITALIAN BISHOPS NEWSPAPER: Up to 30 priests have died in Italy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the country, according to the official newspaper of the Church there. Avvenire – the publication of the Italian bishops’ conference – reported that 28 priests were confirmed to have died from Covid-19, while two others died before they had been tested. All but three of the priests were over the age of 70, and more than half were over 80 years old. The youngest priest to die from coronavirus was 54 years old.
Eleven of the deceased priests come from the Diocese of Bergamo, where at least 15 other priests have been hospitalised, according to the local bishop. Bergamo was the diocese of which Fr Angelo Roncalli – later Pope St. John XXIII – was a priest. In a video message to his diocese, Bishop Francesco Beschi told parishioners that Pope Francis has been in touch with him to express solidarity.

SOLIDARITY BEYOND BORDERS
– March 13: Beijing sent 9 doctors and medical equipment.
– Sunday, March 22:, 52 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Milan and were sent today to t0020 the field hospital in Cremona.
– Sunday, March 22: 9 Ilyishin 76 cargo planes arrived from Russia with tons of medical equipment including respirators, and scores of doctors.

GOVERNMENT ORDINANCES IN A CORONAVIRUS ERA

MANDATORY CLOSURES AND REDUCED ACTIVITIES:
Reduced transport – Steelworks: at first included, then excluded: they remain closed. They are 70% of the metalworking companies in Italy – Stop to betting and sale of lottery tickets but tobacconists** remain open – Home renovations and private construction has also been blocked and moving must be postponed – Stop to production of clothes – Restaurants and bars have been closed since March 11 and this includes pubs, pizzerias, patisseries, ice cream parlors – Car, etc. rentals is stopped – Ports, airports, metro and stations are open (but not all at full capacity) – Museums, theaters and cinemas still suspended, although online offers have multiplied, including films, exhibits, virtual visits to museums and theatrical performances – Gyms, swimming pools, stadiums: All sport activity is frozen, including skiing facilities. Some jogging but most cities have big restrictions on runners – Smartworking: All activities related to suspended sectors may continue if organized remotely with smartworking.

** Tobacco stores here, in addition to selling cigarettes, lottery tickets, gum, candy, souvenirs and many small items, also perform services such as the payment of utility bills, the sale of bus tickets and passes, the updating of monthly bus passes, etc.

SERVICES AND INDUSTRIES THAT MAY REMAIN OPEN
Essential services: Health, law enforcement, transport, agri-food supply chain, public offices, post offices, banks, INPS, newsagents, tobacconists, hotels – Logistics and vigilance (on those services that) bring goods to businesses and families and also ensure surveillance – Agricultural-food sector: crops, production of animal products, fishing and aquaculture, food and beverage industry – Chemical, plastic, and paper industries (all chemical industries, not just pharmaceutical) – Rubber, plastic, paper, wooden packaging industries – Mechanics and textiles: All mechanics, not only those related to medical devices or the food chain. Textile tied to masks, suits and gowns. Shoes yes, clothing no – Maintenance of industrial systems, but also of domestic systems: plumbers, mechanics, electricians, etc. – Energy, water, gas, waste collection, sanitization and disinfection supplies – Commerce in food, newspapers, cigarettes, medicines, equipment for healthcare, agriculture, the oil industry – Other services: funeral companies, aerospace and defense, professionals, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers – call centers, veterinarians, families who live with domestic workers.

FROM THE VATICAN – CORONAVIRUS, ITALY AND QUARANTINE: A DAY AT A TIME

Guess what! The virus must have hit Facebook! I got 6 messages from Facebook today regarding two of my recent posts: “Your post goes against our Community Standards so only you can see it. See options.”

One post regarded the online daily Mass of Pope Francis with commentary in English by Sr. Bernadette Reis and the second involved my re-post of a story in Aleteia news entitled, “Yes, there is a Saint Corona!” I got that notice but the two pieces FB seemed to be against did indeed post!

So Facebook’s “community standards” do not include the Pope and saints! I guess we have some new people to pray for!

Here are some photos I took today at the end of the Angelus, the rosary on the Glorious Mysteries and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary recited by Cardinal Angelo Comastri and a small group of faithful (who keep the prescribed social distance!) in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Altar of the Chair. I obviously took these while watching on TV.

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There will be a very special moment tonight in Italy when everyone in the entire nation (we sure hope it will be everyone!) has been asked to stop what they are doing and tune in to television or online sites (Vatican, EWTN) at 9 pm for the recitation of the rosary for an end to the coronavirus. Join us if you can or recite a rosary – even a decade (!) – at 9 pm local time wherever you live!

Now, for the laugh of the day: I re-tweeted this today after about a minute of laughing! I dedicate this to teachers everywhere!

shonda rhimes @shondarhimes -· Mar 16
Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.

FROM THE VATICAN

1. PAPAL INTERVIEW: Pope Francis on facing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic: In an interview with the Italian daily newspaper, “La Repubblica”, Pope Francis says he is praying for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, and asks everyone to be close to those who have lost loved ones. “I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic: ‘Lord, stop it with your hand’. That is what I prayed for”. Pope Francis revealed the content of his prayer in an interview with Italian journalist, Paolo Rodari, published in Wednesday’s edition of “La Repubblica” newspaper. (Vatican news): https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/pope-coronavirus-interview-repubblica-pandemic-covid-coronavirus.html

2. GENERAL AUDIENCE: Pope at Audience: Make mercy the air you breathe – During his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis re-calls “Mercy” as the first theme he chose to discuss as Pope, adding that as the new Bishop of Rome, he felt its message had to be transmitted. The fifth Beatitude, began Pope Francis, is different than the others: it is the only one “in which the cause and effect of happiness coincide”. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”, he read. Those who exercise mercy, explained the Pope, “will be shown mercy”. (Vaticannews): https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/pope-francis-general-audience-make-mercy-air-you-breathe-5th.html

At the end of the audience, Francis said: “Tomorrow we will celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. In life, work, family, joy and sorrow he always sought and loved the Lord, meriting the praise of Scripture as a just and wise man. Always invoke him with confidence, especially in difficult times, and entrust your lives to this great Saint.

“I join in the appeal of the Italian bishops who in this health emergency have promoted a moment of prayer for the whole country. Every family, every faithful, every religious community: all united spiritually tomorrow at 9 p.m. in the recitation of the Rosary, with the Mysteries of Light. I will accompany you from here.

“We are led to the luminous and transfigured face of Jesus Christ and His Heart by Mary, Mother of God, health of the sick, to whom we turn with the prayer of the Rosary, under the loving gaze of Saint Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family and of our families. And we ask him to take special care of our family, our families, especially the sick and the people who are taking care of them: doctors, nurses, and volunteers, who risk their lives in this service.”
Check your time zone to be united with Italy (Italy now ahead of East Coast by 5 hours).

CORONAVIRUS, ITALY AND QUARANTINE: A DAY AT A TIME

Once again, I am in touch with the outside world via media, especially social media, but I guess most of us are in touch this way nowadays! I did actually go outside today to empty the garbage and get a few things at the mini market outside my front door. They really know how to take advantage of a crisis with their high prices!

Speaking of being in touch: I am very moved and deeply grateful for so many messages from around the world, from family, close friends, friends I’ve not seen in a while, friends and fans from different continents! You bring such sunshine into my life! Not just because of your messages but because of the memories they bring to mind! Countless memories of family events, times shared with friends in their homes or here in the Eternal City during a visit. How blessed I was that it was last summer that two nieces and their families decided to visit Rome! Wow, Beth and Christie, just think if you had planned on 2020! This is one of those many moments we say “Thank you, God!”

I so enjoyed being live (‘live’ being the key word these days!) today with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly “Catholic Connection” radio program (Ave Maria radio and carried by EWTN). Just hearing another voice, interacting with another person, is special. I am sure you are all learning that as well. I’m reading about closures and lockdowns in the U.S, and I see things are developing quickly.

Paradoxically, it seems that “keeping safe distances” is actually bringing people together. Families now watch movies together, play games, read books to their children, invent stories or games – and actually sit around a dinner table and eat together.

I realize the immense difficulties that families with small children, especially 3 or 4 youngsters, have. Children are out of school for heaven only knows how long and they are not supposed to go with Mom and Dad for a walk around the block (not seen as a necessity by the police) or go to a local park to play. I guess that I why the tweet I posted made me laugh!

What I want to bring you today in bullet points are thoughts I have on the crisis, notes I’ve made in recent days and things I’ve heard, seen or read about what’s happening in Italy:

– from Day 1 of lockdown, I’ve wondered what happens if someone has an emergency plumbing or electrical problem or (heaven forbid) WiFi goes out – I mean, a serious problem.. Are plumbers, etc. working? Can they come to your house? Surely we’d still have to stay 3 or more feet apart. I presume everyone would have masks and gloves, including the homeowner,
– I am guessing crime has gone down but so far have not seen any articles about that.
– I have also been wondering about barbers and beauty salons closing down: are we going to see a lot of long hair in coming weeks? Will I be braiding my hair in a month? I know that sounds frivolous but that’s OK!
– I do know that smog and pollution are way down (especially in China!) as I’ve seen some aerial photos of areas known for industry and factories where sir is a lot cleaner. Interestingly enough, I’ve also seen photos from Venice where the boat traffic is almost at a standstill. People posted photos of the empty canals where the water was so clean you could see the fish swimming around!
– Bars (when we say ‘bar’ in Italy we are referring to coffee bars) and restaurants are closed and another category of food has disappeared – street vendors, the kind usually found at or near major monuments.
– Supermarkets are open, as you know and they have strict rules for entering, shopping and keeping “the social distance.” Many announced that they would home deliver but they were so overwhelmed with requests that some are now posting notices that you have to be in a special category such as seniors living alone, to qualify for delivery. Seems fair to me.
– A new hospital catering to ICU units will go up as fast and as soon as possible in Milan. The local fairgrounds have offered a sizeable parcel of land to the region for this purpose.
– I have read that 10,000 doctors under the age of 30 (including recent grads) have been and will be called into service! By the by, pray hard, very hard for all the medical personnel. I’ve seen images on TV that would make you weep. I saw faces of doctor and nurses I thought had been in a fight, eyes red and puffy and faces almost lacerated by the constant wearing of face masks for hours and hours, even 24 hours at a time.
– TV stations here (at least Italian TV as I do not yet have my satellite up and working) have constant public service announcements about washing your hands, keeping safe distances, staying at home unless there is urgency, etc.
– It could be just me but I’ve seen a plethora of ads for cleaning products – especially anti-bacterial products – anything that will clean the surfaces of your home.

Each of us is living this experience in our own way –singles, couples, families, larger communities such as religious houses, etc. The real fun will come when eventually life gets back to a kind of normalcy and we can sit around the dinner table – at home or in a restaurant – and share our stories of coping. What have we learned? What was the hardest part? What was new and perhaps wonderful? What did each of us discover about ourselves?

I sense a lot of good interviews for my radio show, Vatican Insider!

Buona serata! Have a lovely evening!

QUARANTINED? LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone! I’ve always loved how we celebrate this day in the U.S. where everyone is Irish for at least a day – with the wearin’ of the green, drinking green beer, eating green mashed potatoes, singing the song of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish football team – whatever it took to feel the Gaelic spirit on the 17th! And that included dyeing the Chicago River green this one day a year. I hope Chicago does it this year because we need green, the color of hope.

I am sorry for the people or Ireland where, because of Covid, pubs had to close a day before St. Patrick’s feast day! No more cryin’ in your beer, I guess!

In any case, folks, celebrate! Celebrate life and family and friends and faith! Celebrate wonderful past memories and make new, even more wonderful, memories! Celebrate love and caring and living and laughing and sharing – even if we have to do that at safer distances now!

Internet and social media, thank the Lord, have made caring and sharing so much easier! With the coronavirus and quarantine and the many restrictions imposed on us, we still reach across the miles with Twitter and Facebook and emails. Miles are crossed in an instant and those messages across miles create countless smiles and much joy!

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your messages in these days! My email Inbox is never empty. Facebook messages, public and private, pour in non-stop! I will be eternally grateful for this caring and sharing, for putting a smile on my face in the morning and keeping it there all day!

On this special day (I am a quarter Irish – Galway and County Mayo), I say: “go raibh maith agat!” Gaelic for “Thank you!”

QUARANTINED: LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT

In my column yesterday, I wrote about life under quarantine in a somewhat general sense of what we are all asked or mandated to do in Italy where coronavirus has struck so viciously. At the end of that column, I told everyone to tune in today to discover how I’m personally doing under quarantine, how I accept limitations, what I have learned about myself and the land I live in. Tomorrow I will give you a look at some of the stories you may not have heard from Italy.

I am a people person as everyone who has ever met me knows! I live alone and have for many years – and that has helped a bit in the current situation – but my life, each day, is filled with people and activity. There is work and interviewing people and taping TV shows and seeing my EWTN and journalist colleagues at the Vatican press office.

As you could well imagine, I attend luncheons and dine ever so frequently with local friends and out-of-town visitors. There are all kinds of receptions and press conferences and symposiums and international events. Life is filled with people. At times I yearned for a quiet evening at home.

And now I have those evenings!

And mornings and afternoons!

But, as the saying goes, when life gives you a lemon, you make limoncello!

I love my home and cherish every minute in this beautiful place – even if imposed. I have a thousand things I can do and write and clean and organize. My dining table is always set for four people and I change the settings often. Right now it is beautifully set for 6 people (my last dinner party was 6) and I can’t wait to start planning a menu and go shopping again for a new party!

I have an enviable library of fiction and non-fiction and books written and signed by friends and travel books and a plethora of volumes about Popes and the Vatican and the Church and Saints. Right now, I can’t say I have no time for reading!

The frosting on the cake is that I look at St. Peter’s Dome from my living room and dining room!

As you may have sensed, I am an optimist, a Pollyanna if you will, an innately happy person. I can make of life what the cards have dealt me – and even make limoncello! In fact, I just might have to include lemons when I finally go to the grocery store!

Thus, I am dealing with things. I have to say that I am most affected by the silence of city life now – few cars, fewer busses, the rare motorbike or police siren, the lack of people walking and talking on the streets. After all, a city with the noise of traffic and horns and sirens and even people who shout at each other is a city alive!

To defeat that all-enveloping silence, I have music and that is both uplifting and consoling. I’m listening to magnificent Andre Rieu as I write. I’ve found some interesting channels on Italian TV but do miss my satellite connections with US channels, especially news.

And we often have music here at 6 pm when people gather at the windows of their homes and on their balconies, terraces and even the rooftops of their buildings to sing, shout out greetings, play an instrument or dance a bit to music from their cell phone.

Italians are very gregarious, generous, fun-loving, family-loving people who cherish any moment to be together so they’ve made the best of the life-altering situation created by the coronavirus. And, if anything has been contagious, their love for life and their songfests have been!

I think every living soul has discovered in the current crisis what they probably knew before but never verbalized: we are all people persons. We need each other, we need families, we need all generations, the newborn and the grandparents, we need to know that people care, that, put together, we are community.

Perhaps, as never before, we need to feel and see that solidarity, that sense of community, even a strong sense of faith. Our faith in practice has been put to the test but, boy, has it come alive in these days as people seek to find a church open for personal prayer, an online Mass (and there are many of these, Deo gratias!), or perhaps an online rosary recited by a priest or bishop or family member.

We cannot have the Eucharist or go to confession but, if all our prayers and novenas and rosaries make even a small dent in the Lord’s heart, we will soon be back together with our faith communities.

Two important moments in my days here (and I probably should have started with this!) are when I go online for daily Mass with Fr. Greg Apparcel, rector of the American faith community of St. Patrick’s, and when I participate in the noon Angelus, rosary and litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary recited by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, and several faithful at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s. That is also streamed by Vatican media.

What do we have if not faith!

Faith in God above all, faith in mankind, faith that science will come up with a vaccine or cure for this devastating virus, faith that families who were not close will come together, faith that close families will inspire others, faith that communities will come out of this crisis stronger than ever, with an ever greater sense of moral courage, of solidarity, of caring and sharing.

Thanks for sharing your time with me now!

God bless you! God bless me! God bless all of us!

May God sit on your shoulder today!

PS – Am just about to hit PUBLISH and, incredibly enough, Andre Rieu’s orchestra is playing “Happy Days are Here Again!”

THE LAST FLIGHT OUT…. – LIVING UNDER QUARANTINE: LIFE IN THE FAST LANE SLOWS DOWN!

THE LAST FLIGHT OUT….

Just one week ago I was packing my suitcase for what I hoped would be a very fruitful but brief stay in the U.S. I knew it would be a happy one because I’d be in NY and have a ton of friends there but also because my main thrust was being with friends at the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, starting with Archbishop Gabriel Caccia, nuncio and permanent observer to the U.N.

I wrote three columns from NY after my March 10 arrival – one on March 10 and a second on the 11th – so you’d know of my comings and goings, of Vatican news, etc.

On the 12th I wrote a third and very brief entry on my Twitter and Facebook: “Thanks to the confluence of 3 Facebook friends, today I am on last United flight to Rome, arriving tomorrow am. Fiumicino airport to close Monday! More tomorrow!”

When I awoke Wednesday the 11th, I learned that Italy was in what everyone was calling a “lockdown.” I had a full day planned and went through with those plans and also wrote a blog but I kept my eye on all things Italian as emails and tweets and FB messages and news reports began deluging inboxes.

Upon rising on Thursday the 12th, I did something I never do first thing in the morning. I looked at my cell phone and saw messages, include from each of the three people who formed that “confluence of friends.”

For days, I had been messaging Kathy, one of the three, a very good friend in Chicago and newly retired United employee, for updates on United flights (would they or would they not be flying to and from Italy, etc.), especially as she had a good friend in the Newark airport, Gloria. And Gloria’s sister Mary was a good Facebook friend as well!

Kathy had contacted Gloria and given her my flight reservation number. Gloria discovered that the last United flight to Italy from Newark was March 12th. My original return reservation was the 15th but Gloria had the wonderful good sense to put me on the Thursday flight! Her message – and one from Mary – was basically that Gloria awaited my confirmation.

I phoned her so fast to say, “yes, book me!” that the lines had to be burning! Before you know it, I was packing, ran one last errand, contacted my NY friends and then went to the Holy See Mission for lunch. A driver took me to Newark Airport where I finally met Gloria!

I received VIP treatment, checked in and decided to upgrade to Polaris Business class with FF miles and a few dollars! I enjoyed the Polaris lounge and then a wonderful flight back to Rome where one of the attendants, Giselle, had also been on my Tuesday flight to Newark! You knew things were different in the world when the captain, Jeff, came out and had a lovely conversation with each of us (8) in Polaris! Total passengers, including economy, 40!

I saw the captain and crew as we waited for our luggage in Rome. Smiling faces – smiles that were genuine but also had to be forced a bit.

After all, though we hope the situation is only temporary, we all had just been on the last flight out!

LIVING UNDER QUARANTINE: LIFE IN THE FAST LANE SLOWS DOWN!

As noted, I arrived in Italy on Friday, March 13 from the US on United airline’s last flight to Rome for about a month! The extraordinary – many say extreme – anti-coronavirus measures here have turned Rome, major cities and small towns – all of Italy, in fact! – into ghost cities.

It is eerie beyond telling to see every store, restaurant, café and coffee bar shuttered up. It was eerie for me Friday morning to stand at my living room window for several minutes, looking out on one of the busiest streets in Rome, 3 blocks from St Peter’s Square, and see not one living human being in that time. As I write in my office in the back of my apartment, the silence is unbelievable, surreal!

This is what strikes me most every day – the silence. The absence of car horns and the noise of motorbikes, the near absence (this is phenomenal and wonderful at the same time) of ambulance and police car sirens, the strange void of daily chatter of the people who shop and eat and work in the neighorhood or are just passing by on their way to the Vatican. I can always hear voices, though muted, whether I am in my living room that overlooks Via di Porta Cavalleggeri or in my office at the back of the house that overlooks a small street that is basically for parking, not through traffic.

If you do see someone on the street these days, they better have a good reason to be out according to the Interior Ministry. In fact, I just downloaded a form from the ministry that we must carry with us at all times if we move from our residence. I was alerted to this by a very talkative taxi driver (wearing a mask and using gloves) who accompanied me home from the airport. He was filled with information and I was so appreciative!
.
If I want to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy, I may do so but 1. it must be in my neighborhood (I cannot go to the center of Rome), and 2. I must have this form filled out with my name, where I was born, where I live (complete street address) and where I am going (complete address). I must also carry personal ID. You are basically not allowed to deviate, that is, if say you are going from your home to the grocery store, that’s it – no additions. No frivolous visits to Rome parks, for example.

On this ministerial form I must say that my trip (in case you must go somewhere by car or bus or even train), or my movement within the neighborhood are determined by one of the four reasons the form gives:
1. a proven work-related need,
2. a situation of necessity (food, medicine and, I believe, the bank),
3. health reasons (a doctor’s visit),
4. you are returning to your own home or habitation (if, for example, you were in Rome when the government issued its decree and you had to return home to Florence).

As of now the businesses that may open include markets (though not outdoor markets, I am told), pharmacies, mini-markets, newsstands, banks and ATMs (clean the surface or wear gloves!), and tobacco stores. The latter actually service a lot of needs. In addition to selling cigarettes, lottery tickets, candy and gum, souvenirs and a host of small items, you can buy bus tickets, have your monthly bus pass updated, purchase phone cards or add money to your phone if you have a pay as you go as I do.

Thank the Lord the tobacco store adjacent to the entrance to our building was open as I had to refill my cell phone by March 14 or it would have turned off. I had tried to do the automatic refill online but the phone company’s site was down! And this just hours after I got home! My phone refills occur the 14th of every month. The tobacco shop owner Vittorio allowed only one person in at a time (we have to keep the government-mandated distance of three feet or one meter) and he too was wearing a mask and gloves.

I am happy to have the phone but not at all happy that my satellite is out! Friday was a very quiet day as I unpacked and worked on ”Vatican Insider” and wrote a blog. I so wanted to turn the TV on and have news but limited myself to searching online.

My only time out so far has been Saturday morning when I refilled my phone and then went 50 feet to a mini-market for some purchases. The fellow there had gloves but no mask. My contact with people has been totally limited since Friday, when I exited the taxi, to those 6 or 7 minutes on Saturday.

I may need groceries toward the weekend. Our doorman Carlo, through his mask, told me that market hours were the usual ones but that they allow people in one at a time and clients must always keep a meter distance from the person in front of them. Waiting in line also requires the one-meter distance between people. I will wear gloves and will have a mask in my purse.

I asked Carlo about the satellite as this is centralized in our building. He said it was down and the Vatican had sent someone to fix it. It is now 7 pm Monday and I still have no satellite. Frankly, that is a bit difficult for me!

I did discover Saturday morning that I could change the source on my TV remote from satellite to TV and thus I have access to Italian television and Italy’s equivalent of FoxNews, etc. I also discovered to my great surprise that I could watch one of my favorite channels – HGTV – even though it is in Italian. Has been fun!

How am I doing? How is quarantine affecting me? Is there growth, change, introspection? Are there challenges and new perspectives in quarantine?

Come back tomorrow! I’ve taken enough of your precious time today.

God sit on your shoulder! And mine!

A VIRUS GOES VIRAL: CAUTION VS FEAR – ITALY SHOWS JUST HOW CRAZY CORONAVIRUS PANIC CAN GET

A VIRUS GOES VIRAL: CAUTION VS FEAR

I don’t know if you are keeping up with the coronavirus and Italy news. We are all a little confounded as what we see as fear and panic in the US, US groups cancelling trips to Rome in March, etc. but as far as I have heard, no similar indications from other countries. Life seems to be normal here (it is always quieter in January and February) notwithstanding CDC reports about Italy and the coronavirus.

In fact, people are amazed at some of the reports coming from the US, especially the fact that a few US universities closed their campuses in Florence and sent the students home when, in fact, there seemed to be no rationale to do so. Closings seem to have been based on pressures by school administrators and parents, and many of the students here are frustrated and disappointed at the possibility that their Rome campus might close. They sense panic from mainly the US, a panic or fear we do not generally see in visitors to Italy from other countries.

Obviously what I am saying is not scientific and I have not gone all over the city to do a survey all but I do see restaurants doing business, busses filled, Masses being celebrated in places other than the north, people doing their usual marketing, no runs on food, etc. I have no idea if there is a run on masks simply because I have not asked or walked around checking on pharmacies but I may just try to do that. In any case, authorities and doctors, especially in the US, are saying to wear masks only if you are sick, not as a block to becoming ill. So far, I have seen only the occasional mask in Rome, not high numbers.

I do not mean in anyway to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus. We must be vigilant, take precautions (washing hands, using hand sanitizer, coughing into elbows, etc), follow the advice of experts and doctors and yes, avoid venues frequented by large numbers of people such as sporting events in order to avoid contagion.

What is really strange is that no one seems to be minimally concerned about flu-related statistics ! And the flu, by the way, can be transmitted the same way as the coronavirus, so the same precautions should be taken but no one is writing about that. If anything should cause fear, it’s probably the flu.

Some flu statistics (from the CDC):
· Key Updates for Week 8, ending February 22, 2020 – Key indicators that track flu activity remain high but decreased for the second week in a row. Severity indicators (hospitalizations and deaths) remain moderate to low overall, but hospitalization rates differ by age group, with high rates among children and young adults.
· CDC estimates that so far this season (a season is usually considered to start in October and end towards the end of March or early April), there have been at least 32 million flu illnesses, 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths from flu. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm)

310,000 hospitalizations! 18,000 deaths in just the US!

Why have those numbers not frightened people? No fear or panic about the hospitalizations or deaths! Why are people not advised to take precautions all throughout a flu season?

And flu news from Italy (that has its equivalent of the CDC):

(ANSA) – Rome, January 22 – The Higher Health Institute (ISS) said Wednesday that 488,000 people were hit in Italy by the flu in the third week of January. It said that this took the number of people to have been hit by this season’s flu virus up to 2.768 million.

Since the start of flu season in October 2019, 2,768,000 cases across the country have been confirmed by laboratory tests, according to data from InfluNet published on January 19. A total of 488,000 cases were reported last week alone, signalling that flu season is hitting its peak in January as predicted. 240 deaths have so far been reported, slightly lower than the expected 258. Most of the fatal cases are elderly patients who suffered complications after contracting the virus.

What is life like now in Italy? Here is a well-balanced article that should not, in reasonable, clear-thinking people, induce fear or panic about living in or coming to Italy:

ITALY SHOWS JUST HOW CRAZY CORONAVIRUS PANIC CAN GET

Italians refused to go to Chinese restaurants and shops when the virus first emerged. Now they are being shunned worldwide. The stigma is spreading faster than the virus itself.

ROME–Ah, the smell of hand sanitizer in a public space. At least that’s the first thing you notice almost anywhere in Italy right now. The next, of course, is the masks and furrowed brows. While words like “epicenter” and “emergency” seem to tell the story of a massive plague gripping the country, the reality is that the real problem is not fear of catching the virus, but fear of getting caught up in the global reaction to it.

Even while European Union health ministers braved the “threat” and came to Rome this week to announce solidarity and plead that there is no need to close the borders to stem the spread, several countries and lots of companies are doing it anyway.

Late Friday, the Trump administration raised the safety threat level to the ominous “level 3,” which will almost certainly set off a global panic attack about this country.

Yet, even so, half a dozen American study abroad programs had already yanked their students out of Florence even though the city is not part of the current lockdown and there are only a couple cases in all of Tuscany. Most of the rest followed suit after Trump’s heightened alert. British Airways cancelled direct flights to Milan citing a “decreased demand” and Israel and Mauritius banned all flights from Italy no matter where they take off from. An Italian journalist even got shut out of a hotel he had reserved in Greece just because he was coming from Rome. Greece! How could you?

Italy’s hotel federation says that just one week into the crisis, the cancellation rate for reservations has shot to 70 percent in Milan and 40 percent in Rome. Those numbers will skyrocket now that the U.S. has told Americans to “reconsider” travel to Italy. That’s bad news for this tourism-dependent country since one of the biggest tourist seasons is Easter, a few weeks away.

But does cancelling your trip to the bel paese make sense? The experts say no.

Dr. Adrian Hyzler, chief medical officer of Healix International, says it is far too late to restrict travel to and from Italy and other places. The virus is now in nearly 60 countries, and he says trying to single out a few with higher numbers of infections is counterproductive. “You cannot stop air travel without huge repercussions,” he told The Daily Beast. “To restrict travel now would be to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted! And anyway, how on earth would you do it on the continent? It’s practically impossible.”

Hyzler notes that the World Health Organization put out a statement saying travel restrictions should be “consistent and proportionate to local risk assessment” which means cancelling travel to a city like Rome, where just three people were infected, including two Chinese tourists and a researcher who flew in from China who have since recovered completely, doesn’t make sense.

Still, the number of cancellations will almost definitely strain, if not destroy, the smaller tourism entities. “The world’s governments are trying desperately to calm the understandable panic as this would paralyze the world, with much greater knock-on effects for health care, poverty and the economy.”

It is hard to deny that infected Italians are spreading the virus. The first cases in at least 14 countries, including Mexico, Brazil and Nigeria, have been infected Italians who traveled to those regions from northern Italy, possibly subjecting everyone on their flight along the way. But experts argue that it would have likely happened anyway, it’s just that the Italians got there first.

Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch suggested to The Atlantic this week that trying to stop the unstoppable will only make it seem worse. “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable,” he said, adding that many who test positive won’t even know they have it. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic.”

It could also be a case of what you don’t know really won’t hurt you. In Italy, authorities concede that perhaps they’ve gone a little crazy with the number of tests they have carried out, which has topped 12,000 so far with more than 821 positive results, compared to under 500 carried out in all of the U.S. The civil protection agency in Italy gives daily statistics, like they do when there is a major earthquake or other natural disaster. But the number of infected now also includes the number of positive cases where the person has no symptoms at all in an attempt, it would seem, to keep the population yet unaffected from freaking out completely. The figure is near half of all positive cases who wouldn’t even know they were carrying the virus had someone not stuck a swab down their throat or up their nose.

The more than 20 deaths so far in the country all occurred in patients who had serious health conditions. They most likely died “with” coronavirus, not because of it.

Still, the world is panicking and now those Italians who wouldn’t go into Chinese restaurants when the virus first broke the confines of China are feeling xenophobia against them. When four Italian guests tested positive in a resort in Tenerife in the Canary Islands off Spain, travel companies started calling other Italians to say they needed medical certificates if they lived in the north of the country. Would you feel uncomfortable if an Italian group checked in to the hotel room next to you?

“In just over 48 hours we have gone from a safe country, without a single valid or logical reason, to be a European cluster,” Italy’s tourism federation said in a statement Friday. “Part of that is due to hysterical communication that does not take into account the real security conditions of the country. The consequences are an avalanche of cancellations, missed reservations, and closing of the Italian travel market that have no justification.”

It must be noted that while Italy will have a hard time denying that it is not part of the problem at the moment, closing the country off is almost certainly not the solution.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/italy-shows-just-how-crazy-coronavirus-panic-can-get

FROM U.S. EMBASSY TO ITALY RE: CORONAVIRUS

FROM U.S. EMBASSY TO ITALY RE: CORONAVIRUS

(Sent February 23, 2020)

Location: Regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia

Event: The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor the health situation in Italy and recommends that individuals follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas. Due to reduced staffing levels, the U.S. Consulate General in Milan has suspended routine visa services until March 2, 2020. Both routine and emergency American Citizen Services will continue at the Consulate General in Milan. Full consular services are also available at the Embassy in Rome and the Consulates General in Florence and Naples.

Officials count over 150 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, the majority of which are in the Province of Lodi in the south of the Lombardy region. Two cases have been confirmed in Milan, and one each in Bergamo, Monza, and Turin. Cases have also been reported in the areas of Brescia, Cremona, and Pavia. Lombardy regional officials have cancelled schools for the week. City, regional and national officials continue to meet and assess the situation as more information becomes known.

Coronavirus infection rates are still very low, but those concerned that they are presenting multiple symptoms should contact 112 or 1500 to consult with Italian emergency healthcare professionals.

Actions to Take:
· Contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services for questions regarding COVID-19 at 888-407-4747 (Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 8:00pm EST).
· Consult the CDC website, for the most up-to-date information regarding enhanced screening procedures.
· Review the Department of State’s COVID-19 Travel Alert.
· Check with the airlines regarding any flight cancellations and/or restrictions on flying.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

POPE FRANCIS HOLDS EMOTIONAL ENCOUNTER WITH EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS

Papal tweet on January 5: May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other.

POPE FRANCIS HOLDS EMOTIONAL ENCOUNTER WITH EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS

Pope Francis met on Thursday with hundreds of Italians from the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes over the past six months. The central Italian town of Amatrice and surrounding areas were hit by a 6.3 magnitude quake in August which killed nearly 300 people. Other powerful quakes caused major damage in the same region on October 26th and 30th, with the latest tremors reported in Spoleto last Monday, January 2nd.

earthquke-victims

Around 800 people, led by their Bishop Renato Boccardo and local civic authorities, travelled to Rome for the audience in the Paul VI hall. Many of them had lost their houses, livelihoods and friends or family members in the largest earthquakes which reduced parts of many towns and villages to piles of rubble.

Regional reconstruction: Pope Francis sat and listened as a survivor and a local parish priest described the immense suffering of people, now seeking to rebuild their shattered communities. In his off-the-cuff response, the Pope said the worst thing to do in such circumstances was to offer a prepared sermon, but instead he reflected on the work of physical, mental and spiritual reconstruction that has been taking place throughout the region.

Healing hands: Pope Francis spoke of the wounds which have affected those who’ve lost their loved ones and the importance of crying together as they seek to heal the pain. He spoke too of the healing hands of doctors, nurses, firemen and all those who worked together to pull survivors from the rubble or offer help to those most in need.

Sharing and solidarity: Finally the Pope spoke of the spirit of solidarity and nearness which is vital for the reconstruction process. While everyone affected by the earthquakes will continue to bear scars, he said it’s important to find the courage to dream again.  Sharing and remaining close together, he said, makes us more courageous and more human as we face this daunting task.

Amatrice visit: The Pope’s words come three months after he made a surprise visit to Amatrice and two neighbouring towns to meet with survivors and relatives of victims. During the visit, he said he had not come to make speeches, but simply to be close to those suffering and to pray with all those affected by the earthquakes. (Vatican Radio)