Friday, February 28, 2020

All Quiet Grand on the Canal (Updated March 1)

A rower on the remarkably moto-ondoso-free Grand Canal yesterday evening at 6. The cancellation of mass tour groups to Venice has made it dramatically clear that the vast majority of traffic on the Grand Canal consists of water taxis driving sightseeing tourists in circles.

(Updated on March 1, 2020 to reflect latest information on schools closures in certain Italian regions and America's CDC recommendation about travel to Italy.)

As reported in the NY Times (and elsewhere) in recent days, the threat of the coronavirus has led to a substantial decrease of tourist revenue all around Italy, with a significant percentage of hotel reservations and guided tours cancelled, and usually-packed tourist venues left unseasonably quiet.

For those who depend upon tourist traffic to keep their businesses afloat, to even mention such coverage is equivalent to stoking "exaggerated" fears--but I sincerely doubt that I'm telling people anyone reading this anything they haven't already read or heard.

Here in Venice supermarkets and the markets of the Rialto are open and stocked as usual. The streets are certainly less crowded with tourists than would be typical at this time of year, but there are some. Public institutions--the city's museums, for example--are scheduled to re-open on March 1. 

Our son's school already had a week-long vacation scheduled for this past week and so he hasn't missed any classes because of the virus.

The governor of the Veneto region initially declared that schools would also re-open on March 1. But it has now been announced that schools in the Veneto, Lombardy, and Emilia-Romagna will remain closed until March 8

As of March 1, the latest statistics on the corona virus in Italy, as reported in La Repubblica, are: 1,049 people have tested positive for the virus, 50 have recovered from it, 29 have died. 

There are people who complain that the precautions taken by Italian authorities are "excessive"--not surprisingly, many of those thus complaining have something they'd like to sell visitors to Italy.

But when dealing with an easily transmissible new virus whose ramifications are unclear, I think erring on the side of caution is admirable.

In my native land most indications suggest that the governing regime is aiming to go the full-on authoritarian propaganda route, demanding that the "messaging" of all health officials first be cleared with the office of the Vice President, while the President himself spews (as is his trademark) a daily stream of lies: making, for example, the shamelessly irresponsible and easily-disproved claims that the current number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is “going very substantially down, not up,” and that "within a couple of days [the 15 cases known in the US at that time] is going to be down to close to zero."(As of March 1 the number of confirmed cases, in fact, stands at 73, in a country which to this date has actually tested far fewer of its estimated 326 million residents than has Canada's province of British Columbia, population 5 million.)

The Travel Health Notices section of America's Center for Disease Control website currently places a trip to Italy in it highest alert category: "Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel—Widespread Community Transmission." The website states:
  • CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy.
  • There is a widespread, ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness (COVID-19) caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person.
  • Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease.
But considering the corruption, incompetence*, criminality, and cruelty of the current American regime, and its leader's overt conviction that the only thing needed to boost the plunging stock market (and hence his re-election odds) is a consistent program of lies, I suspect one might be safer making a visit to Italy--or anywhere else in Europe where, at least, the potential seriousness of the threat is acknowledged--than to any number of US states.


* And here I speak specifically of incompetence in the handling of the coronavirus threat, as detailed in a recent report by a whistle-blower within the department of Health and Human Services: 

It should also be noted that, in violation of federal law, the initial steps of punishing the whistle-blower have already been taken by the administration. If very recent history is any guide, it will be only a short time before the identity of this whistle-blower is threatened to be revealed (also a violation of federal law).


  1. Aren't you glad you're in Venice?
    Seriously, it must be rather wonderful in some ways to have the place so peaceful. Even when we go, usually in winter, it's not as quiet as that image looks. No water taxis, no tourist-filled gondolas....Tempting....

    1. Yes, I am glad we're in Venice, and feel for those living in countries whose leaders have repeatedly shown themselves to be untrustworthy and reckless.

      I have never seen the Grand Canal so calm. I have no recommendation on whether one should come to Venice now or not--I think it's too early for scientists to know anything with certainty about the virus--but I suspect that any visitors currently here are being appreciated by local businesses to an extent that may not be typical (or perhaps even possible) during an ordinary March.