Three months ago, public health officials feared that America would be swamped by Covid-19 like Italy. Today, the U.S. would be lucky to swap its coronavirus crisis for theirs.
Italy’s sudden surge of coronavirus in March swamped hospitals, pushed the nation into a strict lockdown and forced its doctors to ration life-saving ventilators. About 200,000 Italians were sickened and 29,000 died from the virus by May 1 alone. Global health officials seized on Italy — as the first country outside of China to be battered by the virus — as a disturbing case study for the rest of the world. In private meetings, White House officials worried that Italy was a preview of the storm about to hit the U.S. health system.
But Italy announced just 264 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday — the same day that the United States reported nearly 32,000. The European nation opened its restaurants and stores a month ago, albeit under new, national safety measures, even as U.S. states wrestled with inconsistent, hasty reopening efforts that have been blamed for new virus spikes. And Italy’s outbreak has dramatically ebbed from its mid-March peak, while America’s new per capita cases remain on par with Italy’s worst day — and show signs of rising further, with record hospitalizations in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas last week.