When Katelyn Cooper first moved to Italy, she would have never thought she would see iconic landmarks closed, shortage in medical supplies, or on a nationwide lockdown.
Cooper, who is originally from South Webster, Ohio, and now lives in Italy, has seen firsthand how fast COVID-19 can spread and what a nationwide lockdown is like.
“Our official lockdown started last week, and I had taken a walk around my neighborhood just before that,” Cooper said. “I haven’t been out since”
While Cooper has not left her house since the lockdown was mandated, she shared Italy is still a thriving community, but not in-person or at gatherings, but online.
“Italians are extremely passionate people and a nationwide lockdown hasn’t stopped that,” Cooper said. “There have been many videos circulating online of people singing from their balconies, and I’m happy to say it’s very real. Every day at 6 p.m., it occurs, reminding you that we’re all in this together.”
Along with singing from balconies, there have been many moments were residents give thanks to the health care professionals risking their lives every day to keep the country safe.
“‘Io sto a casa’ or ‘I stay home’ has become the mantra,” Cooper said. “People here respect the guidelines and understand the importance of them.”
Cooper is a nanny for three children and has continued to stay active with the children she watches while they are homebound with fun activities from school and online content.
“Their school has been really great about sending activities and homework every day and staying in contact with the kids. We tried to make the days as normal as possible, following regular school hours and then doing different activities in the afternoon,” Cooper said. “The family is actually in another part of Italy now as they went right before the lockdown and can’t return yet.”
Since the outbreak peaked in Italy, Cooper said that no one she lives with has experienced symptoms of COVID-19.
“I believe Feb. 19 is when ‘patient one’ checked himself into the hospital for pneumonia and tested positive for the virus the next day,” Cooper said.
Although Cooper is thankful that none of the people she lives with has come in contact with COVID-19, She shares some advice to Scioto Countians and Americans.
“Stay home. Stay home. Stay home. I know it’s not easy. I get that. But as cheesy as it sounds, we really are all in this together,” Cooper said. “Everyone has to do their part so we can beat this.”
Cooper shared another tip to Americans about living through the virus.
“Stop with the panic buying,” Cooper said. “It happened here at first, but people quickly came to their senses.’ She humorously added, “I live in the hardest-hit region in all of Europe, and my local grocery store has toilet paper.”
Since Cooper is from Ohio, it was put to her if she felt the United States, especially Ohio, was doing the best to try to save the state and country from being like Italy?
“I do think Ohio is moving in the right direction with the new rules that have been set into motion. I know that only a handful of states have begun closing things, I’d like to see all states doing that,” Cooper said. “The main thing is the American public has to step up. It’s time to think about someone other than yourself. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this.”
On a more personal note, Cooper was asked, if she could have prepared, what would she have done differently?
“To be honest, this is a hard question to answer,” Cooper said. “I can pinpoint the exact moment when things changed. Feb. 23, my best friend who had been staying with me for the past week, was flying home. That afternoon, we were having lunch with one of my friends and she was telling us how she had heard there were more cases, but that it wasn’t that out of hand. Nothing to worry about. Later in the afternoon, we were on our way back to my house for Holly to get her things. We then saw news that nearly a dozen towns were on lockdown. The annual Venice carnival was canceled. Giorgio Armani made the decision to close his show to the public.”
Cooper shared on the way to the train station to drop off her friend; she began seeing more and more people in masks.
“It’s like there was this tension in the air,” Cooper said. Everyone could sense that things were about to change.”
Before returning home, Cooper stopped at a grocery store only to discover crowds and empty shelves. The panic was only just beginning in Milan.
“I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that in just three weeks’ time, cases would skyrocket to 26,062 and the death toll would be 2,503, the largest outside of China. For that week after the 23rd, some continued with their regular lives. I chose to stay home,” Cooper said.
Cooper added, “But the thing is is that the virus was here long before Feb. 20. We knew it was happening in China, but that’s quite far away. Surely it couldn’t affect us. I think that’s the attitude of a lot of Americans now. But it is there, and it’s spread is inevitable, but with these lockdowns and new measures being taken, I truly believe it will immensely slow down the process, which is all we can really hope for now.”
Cooper stated there was a time when China was seeing 2,000 plus cases a day. On Monday, they reported only 21 new cases with all but one brought in by travelers from overseas.
“I guess as a whole; I wish we had taken it more seriously and realized it can spread throughout one country; nothing’s going to stop it from spreading throughout another unless we as a society stand up and take action,” Cooper said.
Cooper was asked if there was anything she wanted to add personally. “Something I’ve tried to reiterate to people is that this isn’t about panicking. We’re not panicking here in Italy. But we are scared, and I think that’s OK to admit,” Cooper said. “What’s happening in our world right now is a very big deal and should be taken as such. It’s frustrating to see how often people toss around statistics as if trying to prove that this isn’t as big a deal as news outlets make it seem. You’re correct when you say the flu kills more people annually, but what you don’t understand is that the common flu doesn’t spread this rapidly in such a short amount of time. Hospitals here are running out of space and supplies. Doctors are having to make the decision who lives and who dies. That’s the harsh reality. This is why it’s so incredibly important to flatten the curve.”
While Cooper said she would continue to obey the nationwide lockdown, she is looking forward to the day life returns to normal.
“All I can think about is sitting on the steps of the Duomo, something I will never take for granted again. I miss sitting there in the sun and hearing at least three different languages at any given moment,” Cooper said.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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