By Tommaso Villa
When I planned my trip to Italy, I surely was not expecting to have to face the initial spread of a pandemic in first person.
On Feb. 28, I flew from RDU to Milan Malpensa (the main airport in northern Italy) for personal reasons. At the time of my departure, I was aware of the chaos that had generated in China due to the virus. Although a couple of first cases had been registered in Italy, I was traveling thinking to be able to spend my short vacation without any major issues.
I was supposed to remain at my girlfriend’s house for about a week and had my return flight booked for the following weekend.
The moment I landed in Europe and turned on my phone, I realized the situation had gotten worse while I was flying over the ocean. During the night, the few cases that had been registered in the area had multiplied quickly, bringing the number of people who were infected by Coronavirus to a worrying amount.
Only two towns were mainly hit by the epidemic, but there were a couple of sporadic cases in Milan as well.
No restrictions were announced at the time, but the few towns at the center of the Italian initial wave of infections were promptly put under quarantine. Nobody was allowed to enter nor leave them.
Myself and a few friends I managed to see while I was there felt pretty safe about the situation. We preferred to remain alert, and hung out in places with the fewest people possible. We felt confident about our safety because the known cases had been quarantined, therefore we were guessing that the issue had been isolated.
In a day, all of our positivity was shaken as the Coronavirus had quickly spread in most of the Lombardy region (where I was residing). Soon, bars and other public spaces got shut down by the government and everyone was asked to remain home.
The Italian prime minister also announced that the entire region (inhabited by millions of people) was soon going to be put under general lockdown, not allowing people to leave the borders.
Flight companies also started announcing the cancellation of most of their trips to and from Malpensa. That’s when I realized I was not going to be able to spend the entirety of the rest of my time there.
The company I was flying with quickly announced that they were going to cancel all the Italian related flights in two days. I immediately decided to move my return to March 2, hoping that there would not be any other sudden changes to the situation.
My biggest fear was not being allowed to enter the U.S. considering the place where I had just been. With plenty of sadness, I left my family and friends there to embark in the second transoceanic journey in three days.
The trip went surprisingly smooth. I wore a face-mask the entire time and paid extreme attention to where I was placing my hands. Fortunately, the airport security immediately allowed me to enter the country and I managed to go home.
I decided to contact Peace to discuss my journey and together, we decided that it was better for everyone at the university if I stayed at home to quarantine myself for 14 days in order to see if I was going to contract any signs of the virus.
Right after these two weeks, Peace announced the fact that the entire campus was going to move to online learning. I was just going to continue what I had been doing until that moment.
And here we are, waiting for the situation to get better. After everything I saw, I would just like to ask everyone to follow what the experts are saying: avoid social interaction, try not to go outside as much and wash your hands as often as possible.
Remember; even if you are a healthy individual and do not seem to be in danger, you could easily transmit the virus to someone who is not as lucky as you are. Think about your actions. You could be saving or ruining a life based on your daily decisions.