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Forum, March 24: From Italy, a view of the pandemic

Published: 3/23/2020 10:00:14 PM
Modified: 3/23/2020 10:00:10 PM
From Italy, a view of the pandemic

I grew up in Bethel, graduated from Dartmouth in 2010, and lived and worked in the Upper Valley for 30 years until two years ago, when my girlfriend and I moved to northern Italy. Now we’re quarantined at home with the rest of the world’s seventh-largest economy.

We’ve adapted to remote working and lots of cooking, and we leave only for groceries or a run in the nearby hills. There have been some fun moments, like the window flash mobs of candles, live music or applause for health workers. Kids hang up artwork saying “andrà tutu bene” (“everything will be OK”).

Total cases could peak around 100,000 soon, triple what they are as I write this. A friend, an infectious disease doctor, says the ICUs are overflowing and critical patients are sent to hospitals in other regions. There are no free ambulances or ventilators.

This is the story at one-third of the expected cases, with a regional health care system ranked in the top 5%. When we hear how people talk in the U.S., we think, “That was us two weeks ago, when we didn’t know.” Now, Germany and the U.S. are on track to become like Italy in a week or two.

Fortunately, the rate of new cases declines as the quarantine works. Italians even seem to have set politics aside to trust the government.

We’ve learned, too. Hands are evil and can’t be trusted, whereas elbows are super useful. We act like we have it because it heads off the “what if” anxiety. The mandatory “staycation” is even enjoyable for catching up on sleep, self-reflection, and that reading or watching list. We’re lucky to have just what we need to be comfortable.

Michael Leavitt, Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush, said, “Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist, and everything after the pandemic will seem inadequate.”

So please, take the coronavirus seriously. Collectively we can slow and stop this thing, saving thousands if not millions of lives.


Lecco, Italy

Time to suspend political campaigns

We are at war, metaphorically speaking, reminded as we were on Sept. 11, 2001, that we are not immune, that war does come to our shores.

People are responding as they usually do, with solidarity and mutual aid. Political campaigns as we usually conduct them, however, while necessary, are hurtful and divisive and, in the present moment, cruel. Those who must campaign for office, where elections have not yet been held, try to engage us in conversations rather than quarrels. In the national primary campaigns, enough people have voted to decide the outcome for each of the national parties, and I hope that remaining candidates will accept the outcome and suspend unnecessary campaigns.

Here in Norwich, we have voted on contentious issues and it is time to accept the results and address the more urgent tasks of carrying on ordinary life with decency and with the generosity and mutual aid that is usual in times of war.



Wrong man, wrong time, wrong place

America is under attack, both medically and financially, and President Donald Trump is not up to it. Never was, never will be.

During the coronavirus challenge, it helps if the chief executive actually executes instead of lying during news conferences, ducking the hard questions. It helps if he is able to feel empathy and apply it. To uplift, not manipulate, not delay.

Trump just cannot do it. Greedy ineptness is his default position. Something inside him prevents him from understanding and displaying true humanity. He is unable to learn, to see anything except what benefits him personally — like winning the next election, which is why he’s recently started calling himself a “wartime president.”

Events are rushing daily, infection rates skyrocketing, death counts rising. By the time you read this, who knows what more may have happened.

Trump recently said, “This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

Bluff, bluster and B.S.

Trump has been minimizing, misleading, mocking, downplaying and doubting this disaster for months. The deadliest liar in the country. On Jan. 22, Trump answered a reporter’s question: Should we worry about a pandemic? “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control.”

On Feb. 26, at a White House news conference, Trump said, “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.” The next day he said, “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”

And the next day he blamed the Democrats and the media for creating a “political hoax.”

He mocked his own Health and Human Services secretary as “alarmist.” He praises his own “natural ability” to grasp scientific theories.

Lord ’a mercy. Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time, wrong mind, wrong spirit.


North Haverhill

Norwich Women’s Club gala is online

After much deliberation, and based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Hampshire and Vermont departments of health, the Norwich Women’s Club has made the difficult decision to cancel our ninth annual Spring Gala.

Our incredible silent auction, traditionally held at the gala, will now be held online. This is an unprecedented development for our club.

The Spring Gala is the annual fundraiser for our community project grants, which support improvements across town life. These grants are made for activities and organizations that benefit Norwich citizens, as well as those throughout the Upper Valley. In addition to raising more than $40,000 annually for the grants, the Spring Gala is a celebration of community and a time to honor this year’s citizen of the year, Linda Cook, and the stewards of Norwich, Cheryl Lindberg, Allison Colburn, and Ray and Anna Royce.

We have already seen an outpouring of support from ticket holders and sponsors, who have graciously agreed to forgo refunds from the event. We hope the entire Upper Valley will help us through this very challenging time by supporting our online auction with items from our generous donors.

The auction is available at, and you don’t have to be a member of the Norwich Women’s Club to participate, bid or get a great bargain.

To our members, donors and community, thank you for your support.



The writer is president of the Norwich Women’s Club.

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