(NEW YORK) — A new phase of the novel coronavirus has started. Cities shut down, workers sent home, schools canceled and so much uncertainty with the economy. There are more questions than answers right now, and the United States seems to be one of the last to feel the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Italy, the death toll has now surpassed that of China for the most in the world. ABC News’ Megan Williams has been checking in with Cheri Preston, reporting for ABC News Radio’s “Perspective” podcast, and sharing what it’s like in one of the hardest hit countries.
“What’s happening now is the government is saying that not enough people are staying in. So they have fined about 53,000 people since the beginning of the lockdown,” Williams explains.
Officials are saying the U.S. is about 10 to 15 days behind Italy, so what can Americans learn from what Italy has experienced so far?
The numbers aren’t coming down enough and that may be due to the lack of “social distancing.” While Williams says it looks like many residents in Rome are following the rules of staying inside, other parts of Italy are not.
The Italian government has now threatened to ban all outdoor exercise if people don’t start following the rules closely. Right now, people can go out to exercise — like run or walk within their neighborhood — while continuing to comply with social distancing.
A new measure has also been added: a questionnaire that locals fill out, signing and sharing whether or not they have been exposed to the virus.
There is also a continuing concern for those who take multiple trips outdoors daily.
“I think what they’re talking about is people going shopping several times a day. They don’t want that. They want people to go stock up and not go for a few days,” Williams explained.
Williams said from her perspective, anxiety levels in Italy appear to be lower than the U.S.
“I think it’s very hard to wrap your mind around it initially. It’s not that people have any more answers here, but I think what’s happening is people are settling in to the day to day routine,” she explained.
Isolation, hospitals working under emergency conditions around the clock and concerns for the economic future are all a part of a new normal for most of Italy.
Schools with the initial reopen date of April 3 are realizing that goal is unlikely. Citizens are recognizing they’re in it for the long haul.
While the number of cases continues to rise, the actual percentage increase is going down. However, the government is saying it’s still not enough.
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