Cristina Higgins

Cristina Higgins gives an online interview earlier this month to CNN on conditions in Bergamo, Italy because of the coronavirus.

For all the warnings and public health announcements about COVID-19, Joe Higgins of Allegany isn’t sure everyone in Cattaraugus County understands the seriousness of the pandemic.

He believes, if everyone read the messages his niece, Cristina Higgins of Bergamo, in northern Italy, has sent to the world, they might take more notice.

Bergamo is at the epicenter of a nation that has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 infection. The coronavirus has killed more than 6,077 people and the country has 63,927 confirmed cases, compared to China’s 81,496.

Obituaries in Bergamo’s newspaper recently filled 12 pages.

Earlier this month, Cristina, at home in lockdown with her husband and children, posted a message on Facebook, warning what could happen if nations failed to follow measures intended to limit the spread of the virus.

The post went, as they say, viral. Cristina was soon interviewed by Erin Burnett on CNN, and her story was shared by NBC and the BBC.

Cristina told CNN that existing in a country with a mandatory lockdown was like “living with dread.” All day long they heard bad news from friends, she said, holding back tears in the interview.

Since that March 10 interview, things have only worsened.

In a FB post Sunday, she notes that restrictions are even tighter as deaths in Italy reached hundreds per day.

“The cemetery in Bergamo cannot cope with the number of bodies so twice already tens of coffins were moved by the army to other cities,” she writes.

“The hospitals are doing more than their best, all the doctors and staff are doing an extraordinary job. But the virus is extremely contagious and they are not able to cope with the overwhelming numbers of people infected and in dire conditions. They are adding beds everywhere they can, in the waiting rooms, in the corridors and still this is not enough. This means that even if you get very sick it is unlikely you will get a place in the hospital.”

Cristina writes that many friends and relatives are sick or have been sick, while there is great concern over protecting older parents and family members from exposure.

“Daily life in quarantine in Bergamo in characterized by a lot of silence as there are almost no cars driving around but a recurring sound of ambulances and of bells that sound for funerals. It is all very unsettling,” she writes.

“So again, please take this very seriously! Change your behavior today. Eliminate all unnecessary social contacts for the next weeks.

“Protect the elderly and those with preexisting conditions by strictly isolating them, if they catch the disease odds are against them.

“Have only one member of the family shop once a week, the others staying at home. No going to school, getting together with friends, no dinner out ... if you have to go out make sure you take all necessary precautions.

“This is surely one of the most important periods of your life, take care of yourself and of your dears.”