Italians in New York, family in Italy worry for each other

National News
Gianmarco de Felice, Annaelisa Lugini

In this March 11, 2020 photo, Gianmarco de Felice and his wife, Annaelisa Lugini pose for a photo outside Columbia University in New York City. Italians in New York are worried for loved ones in Italy who are living under a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. De Felice is in New York for a few months doing research. Lugini has been visiting and had been planning to return to Italy earlier this week, but decided to stay to avoid the lockdown. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Velasquez)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Annaelisa Lugini had every intention of returning to Italy after visiting her husband, Gianmarco de Felice, in New York City, where he is spending a few months on a research project.

But her flight at the beginning of the week left without her on it. Faced with the prospect of a nationwide lockdown on movement in Italy to stem the spread of the coronavirus, they decided it would be better for her to stay and wait it out, rather than being confined to her home, as their parents in Rome are.

At this point, though, as the virus ramps up in the United States, it’s a toss-up for who’s more anxious — them for their elderly parents in Italy, or their parents for them in New York City.

“My parents are a little bit worried. … They think that it’s only a question of time,” de Felice said. Soon in the U.S., she said, “the situation will be similar to what is happening in Italy.”

For Giovanni Belotti, 26, an Italian expatriate who has been living and working in New York City for several years, as much as he worries about his loved ones, relatives in Florence “are actually more worried about me than me worried about them” because of the sheer population and density of New York City and its environs.

“It’s like one-third of the entire Italian country,” said Belotti, who works for a company that sells Italian fabrics. So, even as he’s telling his mother, grandmother and other family to stay put and avoid other people, they are telling him the same thing.

The new virus produces only mild or moderate symptoms in most of the people who are infected, like fever and cough. But for a portion of cases, especially in older adults and those who already have health problems, the symptoms can turn into something severe, including pneumonia, and death.

But the vast majority recover. The World Health Organization says mild cases take about two weeks for recovery, while more severe illness may take three to six weeks.

Among European countries, Italy has been the hardest hit, with more than 15,000 cases of infection and 1,000 deaths. The government has ordered residents to stay home and ordered all retail except supermarkets, food stores and pharmacies to close.

In the United States, there have been more than 1,200 cases and more than three dozen deaths. While there have been no large-scale government-mandated quarantines domestically, there has been an increasing number of postponements and cancellations of events like parades and tournaments.

But not everyone with a connection to both the United States and Italy is concerned. Fabrizio Bonacchi, 62, plans on leaving New York City and his business for an extended sojourn in Italy, where his daughters and other relatives live.

He wasn’t fazed by the quarantine, happy to stay at his Italian home.

“I’m 62, I already had a nice life, and I keep going to have a nice life,” he said. “I need to take precaution, yes I agree, but not to be scared of everything. Life, it need to be continued.”


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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