on Monday, May 4, 2020

NORTHERN ITALY — At their small apartment in a hard-hit COVID-19 area of Italy, Steve and Amy Morgan are aware that life around them has changed.

They wonder what life will look like when the quarantine ends. Who of their friends and neighbors will still be there?

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary graduates Steve and Amy Morgan work with a compassion ministry food program serving immigrants in need. Before COVID-19, poverty impacted many immigrants who came there seeking a fresh start, but finding their dreams unfulfilled.

“People come here and think they will have money because Italy is on the Euro system,” Steve said. “But they learn there no jobs or money.”

As the COVID-19 mandate for isolation continues, Steve and Amy worry about immigrant friends they have not seen in more than a month. Trips to the doctor, pharmacy, the grocery store, or to walk a dog only are allowed. Mandated restrictions are tight and require that adults, including husbands and wives, appear in public alone.

In Italy’s already lean economy, the job market may be worse once restrictions are lifted, the couple said. Many businesses are family-run, and small, and jobs often went to Italians first, making job opportunities for immigrants before the mandated shutdown slim.

Travel restrictions on immigrants make it worse.

“They’re stuck,” Steve explained. “Once they arrive in Italy and declare their status, they are not allowed to leave to go to any other country.”

Discrimination was a factor before COVID-19 and many locals shared their feelings openly about immigrants living in their country, Amy pointed out.

Sometimes the discrimination is harder to spot.

The couple told of one immigrant friend, a computer specialist who is fluent in three languages, but works as a carpenter and lives with 18 other men in a house without indoor plumbing. Another well-educated immigrant friend has been rejected for a position in her profession three times.

As the isolation continues, Steve said prayers for their endurance are appreciated.

“You move into this country to work, to do something,” Steve said. “You have plans and goals. You don’t expect to be locked inside since mid-February. It eats at you.”

Prayers for the people of Italy who are “tired and worn-down” are needed, Amy added.

While the virus has taken a physical toll on the nation, there will be an emotional toll as well, Amy explained. Amy, who earned a Ph.D. in psychology and counseling from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, noted two factors that cause events to be traumatic—not being able to escape the event and not being able to make sense of it.

“With all of us home, we’re not able to escape COVID-19,” Amy said. “It’s also harder to get enough space from it to be able to make sense of what’s happening.”

The situation is worse for doctors and medical personnel who are making decisions as to who is placed on a ventilator and who is not, Amy explained, adding, “There’s nothing normal about that.”

In caring for medical personnel serving in the COVID-19 crisis, Amy recommends these actions:

  1. Take care of them. Show care as it would be done for someone with a newborn by bringing meals, cleaning their house, or providing childcare, if possible, while following all safety guidelines.
  2. Help “hold” their stories—now or later. Medical personnel are carrying a lot of grief and will need to share what they have witnessed. Some may not be able to talk until the crisis is over. When they are ready, offer to help bear the burden of the tragedy they’ve witnessed.