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COVID-19: Not Just A Bad Flu

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2020

A few days ago, Dr. Daniele Macchini, a physician in Bergamo, Italy, made a long post on Facebook (also reprinted here) about how the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) is overwhelming the hospitals there and pleads with the rest of the world to take the virus seriously. The original post is in Italian and Google Translate does pretty well with it. Dr. Silva Stringhini translated the important bits of Dr. Macchini’s post in this Twitter thread and is somewhat easier to read:

After much thought about whether and what to write about what is happening to us, I felt that silence was not responsible.

“I will therefore try to convey to people far from our reality what we are living in Bergamo in these days of Covid-19 pandemic. I understand the need not to create panic, but when the message of the dangerousness of what is happening does not reach people I shudder.

“I myself watched with some amazement the reorganization of the entire hospital in the past week, when our current enemy was still in the shadows: the wards slowly ‘emptied’, elective activities were interrupted, intensive care were freed up to create as many beds as possible.

“All this rapid transformation brought an atmosphere of silence and surreal emptiness to the corridors of the hospital that we did not yet understand, waiting for a war that was yet to begin and that many (including me) were not so sure would ever come with such ferocity.

“I still remember my night call a week ago when I was waiting for the results of a swab. When I think about it, my anxiety over one possible case seems almost ridiculous and unjustified, now that I’ve seen what’s happening. Well, the situation now is dramatic to say the least.

“The war has literally exploded and battles are uninterrupted day and night. But now that need for beds has arrived in all its drama. One after the other the departments that had been emptied fill up at an impressive pace.

“The boards with the names of the patients, of different colours depending on the operating unit, are now all red and instead of surgery you see the diagnosis, which is always the damned same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia.

Dr. Macchini urges: “Let’s stop saying it’s a bad flu.” But this is the part that stopped me in my tracks and got me to write this post:

So have patience, too, that you cannot go to the theater, museums or gym. Try to have mercy on that myriad of older people you could exterminate.

His overall message is that we shouldn’t panic, but that we should take COVID-19 seriously. The goal here is to keep the most vulnerable of us as safe as possible and work to slow the spread of the virus so it doesn’t overwhelm our healthcare system. So let’s do that — the elderly and those most at risk are counting on us.