Richard Turen
Richard Turen

There are floating bouquets of good news in the air, although, admittedly, they are hard to discern among the debris. In just 15 minutes on the first day of the month, my Google feed advised me that:

  • Royal Caribbean, the world's second-largest cruise line, will begin sailing again in September (now delayed by an extended No Sail Order).
  • Drug giant Pfizer announced positive initial trials of a Covid vaccine. (The stock market rewarded the announcement handsomely.)
  • United Airlines has announced that it will resume 75% of its flight schedules.

And this was a relatively slow news day.

The rest of the week did not go as well. After hints that they were serious, the EU announced that they were reopening their borders. But a few rogue countries were not on the list. These included Russia, Bolivia and the United States of America.

We're banned from Europe, a single fact that brings home to me how serious this pandemic has been and how weak our "up to each state" response has been. While others figured out how science could help, we stood around debating whether anyone has a constitutional right to request that we wear a mask. Privately, airlines tell me they are really concerned about this issue because of the potential for violent confrontations in the air.

Canadians are allowed back into the EU. So are Rwandans. But the banning of travel to Europe for Americans will play economic havoc if it continues into the fall and beyond. If it is intended to be a political slap in the face, fine. The ban will be lifted in a few weeks. But if it runs months, an unlikely but possible scenario, it will have a severe economic impact on the hospitality, tour and cruise industries at a time when they can ill afford it. Of course, we've set up barriers to European entry to our country, so all is somewhat fair in love and war.

I do not mean to appear uninformed, but don't we have a sort of history with these folks in Europe? Didn't they ask us, not all that long ago, to cross the ocean to save civilization? As I recall, we answered that call.

Having lived in Italy, it pains me that I am no longer welcome. It isn't that I am unable to run over to Florence at will or stroll the streets of Perugia doing passeggiata. But I'd like to know that if I wanted to leave southwest Florida in July -- never a bad idea -- I could.

And how, I wonder, are the Italians handling things? Are they following social distancing? (I remember getting hugs from my mailman.)

I found the answer in an article in Corriere Della Sera, an Italian daily newspaper published in Milan. The Italians, it explained, refrained from gathering, even in the face of losing their older relatives. They stayed in rather than go to the office or to drop the kids at day care (or Grandma's) -- they may have been tempted, but they stayed inside and respected social distancing. They put up with an inability to utilize vacation homes or visit paramours. A struggle, but they stayed inside. 

But then it happened. The social distancing dam broke on June 17 when soccer underdog Napoli defeated hated rival Juventus in a tense match for the Coppa Italia. That was what it took. Within minutes, the streets of Naples were filled with thousands of dancing, hugging, kissing, singing fans who were, no doubt, as one newspaper put it, "spraying virus across the city." But that seemed not to matter. The breaking point had been reached. A person can only take so much. 

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