Italy’s Patient No. 1 is Out of ICU

March 10, 2020 Updated: March 10, 2020
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Italian doctors celebrated one small victory in their battle against the coronavirus after a 38-year-old man was moved out of intensive care for the first time since he tested positive Feb. 21 and opened Italy’s health care crisis as Patient No. 1.

The 38-year-old Unilever worker named Mattia was the first person to test positive in the north who hadn’t been to China.

At the San Matteo hospital in Pavia, there was a sigh of relief after Mattia began breathing on his own Monday with just a small amount of oxygen assistance, said Dr. Francesco Mojoli, head of intensive care. He was moved out of the ICU to a sub-ICU unit and was speaking with doctors.

“This disease has a long life,” Mojoli told RAI state television. “Now we hope that the fact that he was young and in good shape will help him get back to his normal life.”

Across the region, the virus’ spread has grown exponentially, and the Lombardy government has been scrambling to increase its ICU capacity, converting operating and recovery rooms into isolated wards to treat the 440 critical virus patients currently in need.

It has cobbled together 150 more beds in the last two weeks and expects another 150 in the coming week.

On Monday, the government took broad new measures to restrict Italians’ movements nationwide and prevent social gatherings, realizing that limited restrictions weren’t containing the spread. For example, the region surrounding the capital Rome—Lazio—saw its cases jump from 87 to 102 in a day, a sign that the virus was propagating far from the northern concentrations.

Also alarming was Italy’s high fatality rate: With 463 dead and 9,172 infected, Italy’s fatality rate is running at 5 percent nationwide and 6 percent in Lombardy, far higher than the 3-4 percent estimates elsewhere.

Dr. Giovanni Rezza, head of infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health, attributed the high rate to the fact that Italy has the world’s oldest population after Japan, and the median age of its virus-related dead is 80.

But there are young people who are infected too. Some have been in intensive care, like Patient No. 1.