A Vermonter in Italy is at the epicenter of the crisis
If you never test for (coronavirus), you won’t know it’s there, and if you don’t know its there, you cannot know when it has ‘passed.’
— Evelyn Hill
TURIN, Italy — Evelyn Hill lives just outside Turin, Italy — a cultural hub in one of the most beautiful regions of Europe. Turin is known for its art galleries, theaters, museums, restaurants and piazzas, as well as for being a financial powerhouse; the city drives Italy’s automotive industry and is ranked third in the country, behind only Milan and Rome, in terms of economic impact.
But these days, life has come to a virtual standstill in Turin and indeed throughout Italy in general, noted Hill, a 26-year-old former Middlebury resident whose mom, Cindy Ellen Hill, is a local lawyer and educator.
Evelyn Hill during a series of emails described the mandatory isolation that residents are currently experiencing in Italy, which is second only to China in terms of health impacts from the coronavirus. As reported on Monday by The New York Times, Italy’s coronavirus infections have surpassed 24,000. This past weekend, the country reported 368 deaths during a 24-hour span.
“We are all a little sad and scared, our hospitals are overwhelmed and have apparently needed to make some tough decisions,” Hill told the Independent in an email. “Not being in the city it is hard to see how things are going there. But the numbers kept increasing so often they made a new policy to only release the numbers at 6 p.m. every night. … It has become a habit that my boyfriend comes home from work and we immediately check how many there are and how many have died.”
As recently reported by “The Atlantic,” the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care has published guidelines that doctors and nurses should follow as coronavirus cases mount. The guidelines acknowledge physicians have to make moral choices on how to allocate limited medical resources when the number of patients reaches a tipping point — the types of choices that caregivers in the United States will likely soon have to make.
Like living in the proverbial gilded cage, Hill, her boyfriend Fabio Pinna, and indeed all Italians are not able to enjoy the wonderful diversions, services and amenities they’ve come to take for granted. Restaurants, bars, cafés, stores and most other businesses are closed — and will be until at least early next month, according to Hill.
“Well, in reality, we cannot go dine out or visit cultural sites or do anything,” Hill wrote in her email. “We are limited to our houses and the supermarket… But (with) supermarkets we can only go alone (not as a couple) and we have to maintain a one-meter distance from each other; there are even stickers to remind us. Lines are set up outside the supermarket to make sure only a certain number of people enter.”
Some people are still allowed to go to work, in what the country considers “essential” jobs — such as medical professionals and supermarket workers. Pinna is a truck mechanic for Volvo and must still report to work.
Middlebury-area shoppers are already seeing a scarcity of various items at their local grocery stores. For example, those shopping at the Bristol Shaw’s this past Sunday couldn’t find a single potato. There’s also been a run on toilet paper, hand sanitizers and other cleaning supplies.
In Italy, shortages have touched on many categories of consumables, Hill explained late last week.
“Though they have reassured us there will be no lack of supplies, many things are completely out… such as certain veggies and cookies,” she said. “I managed to get the last bananas today.”
Fortunately, Hill has long worked from home in Italy, so that’s not a big change for her. Her main line of work is managing social media sites and serving as a “virtual assistant” to help businesses and individuals develop their online brands. She has several clients worldwide, from the United States to Australia.
In addition, Hill coordinates Italian food tours and travel planning (through collineallemontagne.com), and does private English language instruction.
But travel is something that Italians — and tourists — are not doing right now as governments try to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus.
While Hill and Pinna live on the edge of Turin, they can’t go into the city to visit friends. Those who break the travel restrictions are subject to police stops and fines.
SHARING WINE ONLINE
“We’ve started video-calling groups of our friends while we share wine at home to have an ‘aperitivo,’ making it easier to be far apart from each other,” Hill said.
While she advises against people panicking, she stressed folks need to take precautions — particularly the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“I am glad to see many people taking it upon themselves to cancel things,” she said.
Hill has seen news coverage of the limited availability of coronavirus tests in the U.S.
“If you never test for it, you won’t know it’s there, and if you don’t know its there, you cannot know when it has ‘passed,’” she said.
On the lighter side, Hill said Italians are trying to be creative about how to while away the idle hours in seclusion. Hill has no shortage of work to do with her online job. And she reasoned there’ll be even more eyeballs on the internet during these times of quarantines.
“But otherwise, (I do) a lot of DuoLingo, trying to learn French and a lot of video streaming,” Hill said of downtime. “We were watching the news a lot but we both noticed how stressed it made us, so try to just watch some shows.
“We also are both climbers and super-active people, so we are trying to train at home with our hang-board and various workouts, but it is tough,” she added.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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