Italy’s virus center battles massive deaths partially hidden

BERGAMO, Italy (AP) — Bishop’s last blessing. Without flowers, no hugs, Francesca Steffanoni and her mother rushed out of Bergamo’s main cemetery. Their farewell took no more than 5 minutes.

Bergamo is the center of Lombardy’s most affected province. which is the hardest hit region of Italy which is home to hundreds of coronavirus deaths Families here are excluded from bedside donkeys with loved ones who have contracted the virus. or even a traditional funeral And the cemetery was so packed with deaths that soldiers wagons transported 65 bodies to nearby areas for cremation this week.

Steffanoni took her mother to see the coffin containing an 82-year-old relative, a widower with heart disease. infected by virus was driven into a majestic door They wear masks and gloves. they keep their distance

“In theory we shouldn’t have gone, but it was one of the last of her relatives to remain,” Steffanoni said.

according to unofficial numbers More than 600 people have died in the province. which is attached to the Italian Alps and accounted for more than a quarter of all deaths in Lombardy. Although it is only one tenth of the region’s population of 10 million.

More about the virus outbreak:

“We are facing a COVID-19 emergency. Biggest after Wuhan,” said Dr. Luca Lorini, head of the intensive care unit at Bergamo’s main hospital. Named after Pope John XXIII, a native son. There are nearly 500 beds for patients with severe symptoms of the virus, 80 of whom are in the intensive care unit. “The numbers can tell us.”

But the numbers thus far don’t tell the whole story.

The provincial mayor is sounding the alarm that the number of virus-related deaths does not reflect the sharp increase in deaths among those who have not been tested. last week just one week 400 people were killed in Bergamo and 12 nearby towns. quadrupled in the same week of last year According to the mayor of Bergamo’s office, only 91 people have tested positive for the virus.

People at the forefront of the virus fight including hospital staff funeral worker city ​​administrator And union leaders told the Associated Press that the Bergamo crisis could have been prevented. If a request is made to create a red zone around the area as soon as February 23, care has been taken.

Conversely, strict containment measures were extended to Bergamo only on March 8, two weeks later. Without ever separating the two valley towns where the first outbreak was recorded.

“When the virus got here There’s no quarantine and it’s spreading through the valley very quickly… some say it’s the common cold. Doctors, we know it’s not,” Lorine said.

Funeral establishments have registered an alarming increase in deaths starting in January and February. An anomaly they signaled to officials, said Antonio Ricciardi, head of the local funeral home association. His business handled 611 funerals from March 1-18, usually over 100 in a full month.

After recording the first death in the vicinity of Alzano, Lombardo and other patients. Confirmed Feb. 23, doctors at Pope John XXIII Hospital have set up an emergency ICU to care for coronavirus patients. That was two days after the lockdown of 10 towns south of Lombardy. That was widely heralded as a success and served as a model for a nationwide city shutdown on March 9.

No official explanation was given for the decision not to extend the red zone status to Bergamo. Regional welfare worker Giulio Gallera took note of the question. But said he did not want to blame, adding: “We are in a situation where the whole region has taken particularly strict measures.”

Eliana Como of the influential FIOM Metalworkers Union said: She believes the area’s economic importance played a role in her decision not to place red zones around towns at the mouth of the Seriana Valley, home to steelmaking and artisan workshops.

“I think business interests greatly influence the decision,” said Como, who lives in Bergamo.

In the fourth week of the epidemic Loreni estimates that the actual number of infections in the area is five to 10 times the official figure of 4,645. The current regime allows testing only for those who show up at the screening area at a hospital that has it. severe symptoms Missing people who are sick only at home

Coping with an outbreak:

“We believe that the real numbers The (of those who died from COVID-19) was hidden,” said Francesco Alleva, a spokesman for the mayor of Bergamo. “Because a lot of people are dying at home or in a building for the elderly. And they have never been tested for viruses before.”

Uncertain toll costs are at the heart of the ongoing urge to stay home. Police cars swept through Bergamo with loudspeakers telling people not to go outside. except for real necessities such as work or shopping. To discourage people from leaving their homes, Mayor Giorgio Gori this week shut down public Wi-Fi and shut down gambling machines in tobacco shops that remain open and where people can pay their bills.

Although the increase in positive diagnoses dropped from about 500 a day last weekend to 300 on Thursday, Lorini said it will take at least until next week at least to determine whether quarantine measures are in effect. affect or not

The inability to comfort a family member who has been infected with the virus in the hospital or even attend a funeral is one of the most important aspects of the emergency that remains to be revealed. Hospital wards try to help by calling updates to loved ones and allowing them to call as patients begin their recovery. But when death is near Lorine said the visit would be “A useless epidemic”

“It’s terrible to lose loved ones and not be able to hug them. But that’s what happened in the epidemic for millennia. and what will happen in the next millennium as well,” Lorine said.

When someone you love with the virus dies Family members are not allowed to choose a favorite outfit for burial. according to government decree The deceased are buried in the clothes from which they died. Wrap it in a sterile blanket and place it in the coffin as soon as possible.

“There is a huge mental problem for family members who are unable to see the body,” Ricciardi said. It’s hard to know that death has occurred.”

The death toll skyrocketed with a glance at the local newspaper L’Eco di Bergamo, which saw the number of pages written on the death notice jump from one to nine, 10 or 11.

in Wednesday’s announcement Family members of Bruno Maffeis, who died at the age of 66, expressed their heartfelt thanks to the doctors and staff at the Pope John’s Hospital in Bergamo. and especially Dr. Carlo Fino for his availability.”

“As prescribed by the government The funeral will take place at a future date to decide,” the announcement said.


Barry reports from Soave, Italy.


The Associated Press is sponsored for health and science reporting from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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