Days have passed and it seems that in our New Jersey home one day folds into another. Yes, we remain indoors. Yes, we only leave to go to the pharmacy and vegetable store. Yes, household supples, meat and dairy get delivered. Yes, I am anal about wiping down all deliveries and hand washing. Yes, after returning home from an outside trek, I insist that Jack or I immediately strip, shower and wash the outdoor clothes. Yes, besides contacting family and friends here and in Pontelandolfo, I have been a binge watching, novel reading full time layabout.
My “what have you done for me lately” brain got a spurt of energy and sent me to my computer. It is time to tell you the story of Pontelandolfo (BN) and the Coronavirus. My cousin Annarita came to visit us at the end of February expecting to stay for a month and a half. Then the Coronavirus hit Italy and she decided to stay with us. Then the Coronavirus hit the USA and the three of us realized we had to hunker-down in New Jersey for the duration. With her here, we get daily updates on the life of our Pontelandolfo family and friends.
What I realized is that the Italians in Southern Italy do everything with resolve and passion. When Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy, said the quarantine would be extended until April 30 people execepted it. Unlike the ridiculous stories I read in the New Jersey papers no one had a wedding, birthday party, or state house protest with hordes of people. They stayed home. Because they stayed home, only one person in our small Southern Italian village has tested positive for the Coronavirus. The person who tested positive is a nurse in an out of town rehabilitation center. She is isolated in her home and will stay there until she tests negative. The virus has not spread in our village. However, there is a flour and yeast shortage.
Schools were closed and teachers are providing home based lessons. The high schools seem to be giving final exams on line. All the elementary school kids were encouraged to create a rainbow to hang in their windows. The activity was an opportunity for parents to explain how working together by staying home is for the good of everyone.
I can only talk about what is happening in Pontelandolfo. From my family I have gotten first hand information – it helps to have politicos in the family who have an information main line.
Information distribution is key during a crisis. Starting early in March, the country went to the mattresses to stop the onslaught. #iorestoacasa. Pontelandolfo uses signage, e-mails, facebook and its Pontelandolfo 2.0 app to get the word out.
The municipality of Pontelandolfo gave each family one washable mask to use. Why only one? Because only one person per family may leave the house to go the grocery store, butcher, or Farmacia. That person must print out and fill out a “self-certifying traveling for proven needs” form. (Folks titter that every time Premiere Conte speaks there is a new form to fill out.) The police stop all cars coming into town and ask to see the form. They stop you on the way out too. There better not just be a jug of wine and no groceries! Yes, you can get a ticket. The police presence is excepted as necessary and a reminder to stay home.
The sense of community is amazing. The three levels of government, social service agencies and individuals are all working together for the greater good. The men and women who volunteer to be part of Protezione Civile Pontelandolfo, have been instrumental in providing information and assistance. Idea Bellezza, a local company, donated food and hygiene products to distribute. For Easter, the municipality brought Easter Baskets to every child. Tina Perone of Farmacia Perone made hand sanitizer for every customer. The Region of Campania also bought masks for the pharmacies to give away.
Vincenzo De Luca, the president of the Region of Campania announced the following assistance. The region allocated fourteen million euro for a fund called Bando con la Famiglie. Social Service agencies got funding early for problems in the community. Funding was put in place to get food from the producers to the distribution sites. Students who can’t afford to buy their school books and supplies would be helped. Money is also available for families with children under the age of 15 and need financial assistance. Since all children are at home, €500 per month is available to help families that work in essential services pay for babysitting. That said, when the fund is depleted the funding stops unless there is something else in the pipeline.
Conte’s Italy, is providing additional help. INPS, think social security agency, is providing assistance. Anyone receiving a INPS check of less than €1,000 gets up to €500 from the government to insure they receive a monthly pension check of at least €1,000. Since all students are learning from home, there is money available to buy poor students computers and get their homes hooked up to the internet. Funding is available to distribute food to families in economic difficulty. Self – employed persons and those with small companies are also being assisted.
My first thought was could someone double dip – get funding for the same sort of thing from all levels of government. My cousin looked at me and raised an eyebrow. I guess the answer is no.
Families are spending time together. Music is being made. Songs are sung. No one disobeys the rule to stay home and don’t go beyond two hundred feet of your home. Nationally, Coronavirus numbers are falling. In Pontelandolfo the number remains one.
I think there are lessons to be learned here. The government jumped in and tested tons of people. Rules were put in place and the people listened. Everyone understood that one helps oneself and the world by staying home.
Ci vediamo prossima volta.