Bergamo, in Northern Italy, is one of the deadliest killing fields for the virus. More than 3,300 people have officially died from the virus there, although the death toll could be double that. Fatalities in the spring soared to such heights that the local priest ordered a stop to the incessant tolling of the bells for the dead.
Our colleague Jason Horowitz, who covers Italy, investigated that question in the latest entry in The Times’s “Behind the Curve” series, which explores the mistakes and missteps that allowed the virus to spread.
Jason found that faulty guidance from the World Health Organization, which recommended testing only people with a link to China, missed early cases and allowed the virus to spread rapidly throughout the region. Only after a doctor in a nearby province broke protocol, in late February, and tested a man with serious pneumonia who was not responding to standard treatments, did the country discover its first locally transmitted case and the terrifying knowledge that the virus was already spreading in the community.
Even after hospitals became incubators for the virus, businesses lobbied the government to keep the economy open. The bureaucratic back-and-forth between Rome and the regional authorities delayed an early lockdown that might have saved lives.