A couple from Lawrence County is witnessing firsthand the detrimental effects the novel coronavirus is having on many parts of the world as they experience a total lockdown in their home in Rome, Italy.
Ohio natives Todd and Christie Kincaid relocated to Italy in April 2014 to serve as missionaries working cross-culturally with refugees and immigrants.
“We have a center close to Rome where we teach English, people in our church teach Italian, we offer homework assistance, things like that. We’re trying to reach the immigrants and refugees here,” Christie Kincaid said during a phone call with The Herald-Dispatch on Tuesday. “But two weeks tomorrow is when they closed schools. We were at our center on Wednesday and on Thursday, March 5, they shut down the schools.”
From there, things began going downhill quickly, she said.
In Italy, about 3,000 people have died from the virus, making the country the second-hardest hit from COVID-19, behind China.
But Todd Kincaid said — similar to reactions he’s seen on social media from his friends in America — many people in Italy didn’t necessarily believe the virus would affect them and were hesitant to shut down nonessential businesses and travel, as tourism is a key part of the country’s economy.
Rome alone brings in about 5.5 billion euros to the Italian economy each year.
“We’re very social here. The idea of closing down the local coffee bar is like worse than death itself,” Todd Kincaid said. “It was 13 days ago when they said, ‘We’re going to close schools for two weeks.’ That’s how it started, but now everything is closed until at least the beginning of April, probably way beyond that.”
On March 10, people in Italy were ordered to stay inside except to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank or post office, and even those trips must now be approved by officials, he said.
“We’re only allowed to go out one person at a time. We can’t go together. I went to the store yesterday. I had to wait in line outside the store for an hour and a half. They’re only letting four people in the store at a time, so when one person would come out, they’d let one person in,” Todd Kincaid said. “When I drove up to the store, no cars were on the road — I saw more police officers than people. Everyone is 6 feet away from each other in the line and it’s very un-Italian. I came home, and it was weird after being in the house for almost a week.”
The Kincaids said they’re urging people in America and other countries not to panic, but simply follow guidelines set by public health officials and the government in order to protect themselves and others.
“In general, the U.S. is about 15 days behind Italy, but if you don’t take measures quicker and more drastic, then in two weeks, you’re going to be exactly where we are,” Todd Kincaid said.
“People think that it can’t happen in America, but France and Spain are under similar provisions, so people just need to be proactive,” he continued. “Basically, the U.S. is following right along. I’m not trying to freak people out, but in two weeks, you could have 700 people dying in two days’ time, hospitals overrun, not enough ventilators, and we have 60 million people in Italy not allowed to leave their house.”
Christie Kincaid said although the lockdown has certainly been an adjustment, the family, including their son and daughter who live with them in Rome, is doing just fine because they have followed protocol.
“We realize we’re in here not just to protect ourselves, but to help everyone else stay protected,” she said. “This is a pandemic like we have not seen before. Other generations have been through this and have had to learn to cope, but this is uncharted territory for us. We all have to work together to get this finished as fast as possible. It’s a sacrifice, selflessness, to make it through this.”
As of Wednesday, more than 7,000 cases of the new coronavirus had been confirmed across all 50 states in the United States, with numbers expected to grow in the coming weeks.