Milano, Italy – Italy discovered its first COVID-19 infections a year ago. The outbreak triggered the first nationwide shutdown outside of China and has claimed more than 95,000 lives across the country. But as CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay reports, it’s a very different story now.
Life has been slowly returning to normal, and Italians filled the streets over the weekend, even in the north of the country, which was once the epicenter of theirepidemic.
Beatrice just turned one year old, and what a year it has been. Two weeks after his birth, his mother noticed a fever.
“It used to be that when my kids coughed, we didn’t immediately freak out,” mother Marta Zaninoni told CBS News. “But now in our family, the cough is no longer just a cough. It is really stressful.”
Beatrice had COVID-19, the first known case in Europe in a newborn.
“They immediately put her in an incubator,” Zaninoni said. “I couldn’t even say goodbye.”
As her small body battled the disease in isolation, Beatrice became a symbol of hope for her family’s home region, Bergamo.
Many followed her progress at the hospital, and the entire country would soon join Beatrice in isolation. Infections soared, plunging towns, cities, and then all of Italy into what was, for a free society, unthinkable: closure.
The death toll skyrocketed, and as the disease forced service members to turn funeral homes and barns into makeshift morgues, it robbed not only people’s lives but also their dignity.
The iconic streets of the city of Italy were devoid of people. Pope Francis even offered an unprecedented solitary Easter service, virtually. In small towns like Nembro, which once had the highest death rate in the country, Catholic Mass was celebrated in front of empty benches for most of 2020.
But today, from Milan to Rome, life has returned. On Sunday the church in Nembro was full.
“Last year we had 188 funerals,” Nembro priest Don Matteo Cella told Livesay. “This year, people are planning weddings.”
Old traditions are recovering throughout Italy, but with some differences. A year ago, something as simple as drinking a cappuccino outdoors had become unthinkable.
Life has barely returned to normal; the law still requires that you wear a mask at all times in public, even outside, except when eating or drinking.
It’s a slow recovery and not without victims, something Beatrice’s mother knows firsthand as a COVID survivor. The virus killed her uncle and grandfather while Beatrice was still in the hospital.
“They never got to know Beatrice,” Zaninoni lamented, adding that the illness brought the rest of the family closer than ever.
“Finally, after 40 days, Beatrice was COVID-free on Easter Day,” the mother recalled. “It was a true resurrection for us. Despite all the deaths in Italy, Beatrice brought us life.”
A year later, Italians are now eagerly awaiting doses of the vaccine.
Deployment in the European Union has been slower than in the US Many 80-year-old Italians still don’t know when they will get their first chance, a particular concern in a country with one of the oldest populations in the world.