I was hesitant to write about the coronavirus here in Milan because I don’t want to look like a desperate self-promoter capitalizing on an epidemic for my own personal gain. But the more people that reach out to me, the more I thought a blog post should be the way to go.
Firstly, thank you to everyone who has reached out…I so appreciate your thoughtfulness! So, here’s my take on what’s happening here. Let me just emphasize that these thoughts are my own. I do not have any sort of medical credentials and I don’t consider myself any sort of authority with an opinion on the topic that really matters. I also want to reemphasize that I don’t represent the city as a whole—this is based on my experience over the last ten days.
No doubt, these are strange days. Milan does feel eerie. Yet, the city’s cloaked in an accepting serenity, NOT hysteria. Streets are quiet, several stores are closed, schools haven’t reopened, many offices are still encouraging remote work and the Ministero della Salute has temporarily shuttered the yoga studio where I practice. It was supposed to reopen today, but they ordered it closed for another week. But none of this hasn’t stopped me from going out and living my life—perhaps just a bit more cautiously as I normally would. Some people are saying that the measures are a bit extreme, but I do believe, as this virus has killed people, that it’s better to err on the side cautious, or even over-cautious. I don’t consider myself a panicker, but I do think the virus is going to ultimately be worse than many people realize at this point. (I hope I’m wrong about that.) However there’s a part of me that can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s always been a thing, but we’re only just realizing it now.
I am not in lockdown or quarantined. I go out every day. I socialize. I shop. I support small businesses and farmers. I frequent food and beverage establishments (which are open and are in need of some business these days!). I practice yoga at home (not the same as the studio, but it’s better than nothing!). I go running in the park. I don’t wear a mask, and neither do, I’d say, around 97% of the other peeps living in this city. I think the media did a good job of creating panic and fear (especially among outsiders), but I haven’t experienced anything of the sort. I’m not trying to diminish the severity of the coronavirus in any way, shape, or form as it is indeed a big deal, but at the same time, I refuse to sequester myself.
I haven’t been on public transportation since these new measures were taken last Sunday. Call me paranoid, but that’s the one place where I feel cocooned—there’s no, for lack of a better term, “freedom of movement.” On the street or in the store, you more or less have control over how close you get to others, but the constraints of public transport can be a bit limiting. However, metros and trams are apparently empty these days, so who knows what it would really be like? Anyhoo, that’s just the one place I’m choosing to be cautious. How am I getting around? Like I always do when I’m not using public transport: either in a car driven by someone else, a taxi, or my own two feet.
I love Milan, but I’m definitely going stir crazy. I’m DESPERATE for a trip to London or Paris, but I’m staying put and perhaps that’s wise? Again, it’s the public transport that makes me uneasy–I don’t want to risk catching the virus from someone on the plane or train who doesn’t know he or she has it, and then become one of the many who has unknowingly spread it.
In addition to restaurants and other businesses, I know the tourism sector has been hit really hard. Lots of would-be travelers have canceled trips to Italy in general, even as far ahead as the summer and fall and even if they have no plans to visit the north. It’s a shame, but when I look at the situation objectively, I do understand where they’re coming from. I’m not saying that I agree with them, but, yes, I do understand. I don’t think everyone is coming from a place of unfounded hysteria, but rather just trying to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. The disease is deadly…I know the flu can be deadly too and that more people have died from the flu than the coronavirus, but at the same time, there’s a vaccine for the flu and we know a lot more about it. The coronavirus is still evolving and spreading, so perhaps here, too, it’s better to err on the side of cautious.
Let’s hope this passes soon, and that we all keep safe and healthy.