Thursday, March 19, 2020

Stay safe, Stay home.

Stay safe. Stay home.

WTF? CycleItalia/Piedmont Cycling Resort is telling you to stay home?

Yes. Yes we are, at least until the authorities have announced the Covid-19 pandemic is over and normal life can resume. Your life or the life of others is more important than riding your bike outside, even if the authorities have yet to ban it as they've done here in Italy.

We're NOT telling you to forget about joining us in 2020, especially if looking forward to a cycling vacation will help you get through this, but we'e asking you not to ride outside on the roads or trails.

Why? Some places in the USA have already put their citizens under "lockdown" though for some reason there they like to call it "shelter-in-place" and reserve the former term for other countries. 

But when they do it where you live (and perhaps before?) think about the message you send when other citizens have been asked to help "bend the curve" on infections by going out only for groceries or medicines and they see you out on your bike just having fun. We're not talking about using your bike to do the shopping or essential errands, Zio Lorenzo is doing that here in Italy a few times a week, figuring he can carry more stuff and be outside for a shorter period of time.

It's the cycling for fun or exercise we're talking about. The authorities need your help in reducing the possibility of the virus' spread and despite your idea that you need the exercise and fresh air and you're not compromising anyone's "social-distance" think about if you crashed you'd be taking up valuable healthcare resources that a soon-to-be overburdened medical system is going to need.

And you're sending a message that the rules or suggestions somehow don't apply to you, exactly the reverse of what's needed in a country where nobody under 80 years of age has ever been asked to sacrifice anything for the greater good. They asked us to "go shopping" after the September 11 attacks, remember?

All cyclists will be the victims of bad attitudes (or worse) if we're seen to be acting irresponsibly. Here in Italy pro cyclists had the legal right to be out training as it's part of their job, but that didn't stop angry motorists from yelling at them..or worse.

We ordered up a set of rollers the other day, thinking the quarantine here may last beyond the April 3rd date first announced. We never thought we'd need such a thing once we left Iowa but this is a PANDEMIC.

Stay safe. Stay home.

Note on life in Italy: US TV news reports have caused many of our friends and clients to email us with good wishes as if we're really suffering here. Other than not being able to go outside and ride our bikes or visit our friends, we're really just fine. Food and wine here is still great and readily available. So far we've seen no shortages of anything on store shelves.

Here in Sicily the pandemic's effects are (so far) being felt far less but nobody is fooling themselves that the virus will not spread down here much more widely. The authorities continually ask residents to stay home, going out only for groceries or medicine. You must carry a signed declaration stating your purpose for being outside and show it to the authorities if they ask. You face fines and/or arrest for failing to respect the rules.

The streets are mostly deserted here, a very strange situation, especially at a time when the tourist activity is usually ramping up, with shops and ristoranti that were closed during the low season gradually opening again. Everything except grocery stores, pharmacies, tobacco shops and newsstands is closed up tight. The local rail-trail bike/jogging path has been closed to drive home the Restare a casa (stay home) message.

The Italian government is introducing measures to prevent anyone being thrown out of their house or apartment or having their utilities turned off for lack of payment since almost nobody is working now except for the brave public servants - police, fire and the overworked medical workers in the ambulances and hospitals.

Each evening at 6 PM we gather outside on our balconies, greet our neighbors and sing songs, clap or just make noise in solidarity and to show support for those who are risking their own well-being to help us all.

We hope wherever you are, no matter how bad it is or it gets, that you can feel a sense of "we're all in this together" as our adopted country does every day.

Update: We've taken some criticism from folks in the USA about this opinion, some of them writing, "Of course I would stay off my bike if I was in ITALY, but I'm not. Here's a bit of perspective for those folks:

Think of the regions of Italy (Sicily, Lombardy, Veneto, etc) as the equivalent of US states. You probably don't live in the epicenter (currently) of the outbreak (New York in the USA or Lombardy in Italy) and neither do we.

We live on the island of Sicily, about as far away from the virus epicenter you can get and still be in Italy. Lombardy's on your TV news rather than Sicily or Calabria because the reporters go to where the plane crashed rather than the place they safely land every day.

In Lombardy there are around 10 million people. 20 thousand of them are infected while more than 2000 have died. Piedmont has less than 4 million inhabitants, 3 thousand infections and less than 200 deaths. Sicily has around 5 million people with less than 400 infections and 15 deaths. If you break it down into the equivalent of a county, Siracusa (where we live) has 120 thousand people, 33 infections and 4 deaths.

Stay safe. Stay home.

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