(Photo by Michael Kinney)
In this 2016 photo, the streets of Rome were filled with tourists. But 2020 has been a different story due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
By Michael Kinney
Michael Kinney Media Services
Six years ago when John Henderson moved to Italy, it was the start of a new chapter in his life. After spending 40 years as a sportswriter, he planned to live out his retirement years in Rome.
When Henderson arrived in 2014, Rome was everything he could imagine and more. It was literally a dream come true for him.
However, the 66-year-old Henderson said living in Italy now in the age of the coronavirus is more like being an extra in a film.
“It was like a science fiction movie because every day you wake up and you see a map of Italy, and the little red ball that represents the virus keeps growing bigger and bigger and darker and darker,” Henderson said.
Since early February, Henderson has been living in what many consider the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. The place that he now calls his home has been ravaged more than any other country.
As of March 25, the total number of deaths throughout the globe reached 20,896, according to worldometer.info. Italy by itself has accounted for 7,503 deaths — 4,216 more than China, which was the next closest.
“You hear all these horror stories. Like I have a friend of mine in Bologna. She works with a woman who watched her mother die from the other side of a pane of glass at the hospital,” Henderson said. “She basically just died alone and it’s a horrible way to die.”
After seeing consecutive days of the fatality rates dropping over the weekend, it looked like Italy was starting to coming out of the other side. However, those hopes were dashed when the death toll rose to 743 on March 24, the second deadliest day of the pandemic. Another 683 deaths were reported the next day.
“The doctors in the hospitals are so overwhelmed,” Henderson said. “And the doctors, they’re so understaffed now because of the number of cases. Doctors are having to decide basically who lives and who dies because some if they have to decide between saving an older person and a younger one, they’re going to save the younger one because there’s not enough respirators.”
In terms of fatality rates, the United States is far behind the total numbers of both Italy and China with 910 total deaths reported as of March 25. That is the sixth most of any country in the world.
However, according to Henderson, the United States is on the same trajectory as Italy and making many of the same mistakes. That includes not getting a nationwide lock-down in place sooner and people just not taking the scope of the virus seriously.
Because of that, Henderson says the country is in for some dark days ahead.
“That’s why all these people were running around America on the beaches and golf courses and gyms and bars, restaurants — they have no idea what they’re doing to their country,” Henderson said. “This thing is going to explode in America. There’s going to be, I predict, a tsunami of death within the next two or three weeks. They are late on this. They’re asleep at the switch on doing something about it.”
Henderson said once Americans get a look at the true face of what COVID-19 can do, it may be too late.
“I think if people in America understood how you die from this thing, they’d be more cognizant of keeping their distance and making sure they don’t get this thing,” Henderson said. “What happens is it starts off with a dry cough and a fever like a flu, and then it escalates, and when it gets really bad, you have a really hard time breathing and then your lungs fill with fluids. If you’re not in the hospital, an ICU where they can drain the fluids, you basically drown in bed.”
When Henderson, who now works as a part-time travel writer and movie extra, first started to hear about the coronavirus, he had no idea it would get to where it is now.
“It was in early February when China was starting to freak out about it,” Henderson said. “And I didn’t think much of it. I’ll be honest with you. I thought it was going to get contained. It started getting bigger, and of course I didn’t think it was going to hit like this, but I was wary of it.”
But, in the course of a few days, Henderson started to see just what his country was going to be dealing with. It was when he returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and witnessed how much the mentality had changed by Feb. 17.
“I also remember there was a lot of people in Saudi Arabia wearing masks even though Saudi Arabia, at that point, did not have a confirmed case,” Henderson said. “There was no scare at all. But people walking around, the Saudis were walking around with masks just in case. And my hotel had masks available, so I picked one up just in case. And sure enough, I was using it within a few days after I returned back to Rome.”
As the pandemic spread, the entire country of Italy went into lock-down March 11. Henderson has been in isolation since March 8, only making trips to the grocery store when needed. He says he showed no symptoms of the virus during his self-quarantine.
However, Henderson will not be able to see his girl for another week because she began her isolation later.
Henderson doesn’t know what the future holds. He’s still worried that even if the world gets past this round of the pandemic, the coronavirus has the potential to keep coming back.
However, Henderson knows when they are finally past all of this horror, the world is going to party for a long time. And when it does, he will be right where he belongs.
“This is my home now,” Henderson said of Italy. “My heart is here, my soul is here. I’ll never leave.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with Michael Kinney Media