• Staff

Local man experiences COVID-19 outbreak in Italy

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Reggie Harris surveys the football field where he is head coach for Guelfi Firenze, an Italian football team. (Special to Branson Globe)

By Brenda Meadows

Staff Writer

Reggie Harris, who has been in Florence, Italy since January as head coach for Guelfi Firenze, an Italian football team, is hoping he can get back to the U.S. to be with his family. He has not only been worrying about his parents in Mississippi, he has a brother in Texas who suffered a stroke within the past few days.

“It’s kind of rough not being there. I am very concerned about my elderly parents.” he said. “I usually talk with someone in my family at least once a day now.”

With travel regulations changing almost daily, Harris is wondering if he can get a flight home when makes plans to go.

“I’m just worried about the unpredictability of the US government’s decisions in terms of travel in the future,” Harris said. “But if something happens to my brother, can I come home?”

Harris lived and worked in Branson for several years, until a job promotion moved him to Springfield.

“I just want my Branson family to know to please respect this virus,” he said. “It is a virus and it has DNA and RNA which mean it is a live organism that can adjust and modify.”

The team where Harris is head coach consists of three Americans. One is from California, one is from Pennsylvania and one is from Mississippi. There are Italian players and two other coaches are also Americans.

No shortage in a Florence Italy store since people do not hoard things.

(Special to Branson Globe)

“The guys have questions and are uncertain, and that’s expected,” Harris said. “They have been flexible and willing to adjust, which is great. We all have expressed concerns about the situation, families, travel, the country, the world and the (football) season.”

Each team member is handling being away from family in his own way. Harris said the players are “looking at the big picture for the safety and well-being of the country as a whole.” The Italian members “are in great spirits.”

“Being in Italy right now is good because the people are taking proper precaution to prevent the spread of the virus,” said team member Michael Pietropola of Pennsylvania. “The atmosphere has remained good because of the unselfishness of the Italian people.”

Italy reported its first coronavirus case on February 20. Italy passed China's death totals from coronavirus as of March 19. The people there have been on lockdown for several days

“I am on lockdown,” Harris said. “But I am making the most of it with my players. They are taking heed to the lockdown. We are working out at our homes and communicating through WhatsApp and sending videos. We know we are in a holding pattern now. We are just going to workout, crack jokes, go to the grocery store and repeat. And we have plenty of toilet paper.”

The Italian government’s main message to people is to “stay at home” and go out for essential reasons only. It has implemented ‘social distancing,’ that is at least one metre (39.37 inches) away from the next person.

A Michelangelo’s popular replica of “David” has no admirers since Italy is in lockdown and tourists have gone. (Special to Branson Globe)

“There are people here I know in the healthcare field here and it’s tough,” Harris said. “This lock down is really the only thing that can help until they figure this thing out.”

Harris said the situation in Italy is changing weekly, in some cases daily. He said the Italian people have been an inspiration to him regarding their treatment of each other.

“Even though we are on lock down, all are considerate,” he said. “Anyone over 60, and people who are immune comprised, are in danger. Most people my age can shake it off but here is the kicker, the virus can not show symptoms for two to 14 days and you can still be contagious. So you can still give it to an elderly person or an immune comprised person and it takes them out. As most people know, Italy has one of the top life expectancy rates of any country in the world. So the elderly here are in full force.”

Harris is sympathetic to the Italian people who persistent, hopeful and take the ordinances seriously.

“I do feel for these people,” he said. “I have elderly parents at home who are very active. It is beautiful to see the people rally behind each other here. The only thing I can imagine, is what are these families going thru? One day they are up and at it. Now, they’re bedridden fighting for life.”

Harris said he is saddened when he sees how people in America can’t get what they need at a store “because a few people felt it was ok to hoard it all and empty the shelves.” He said while the Italians waited in line for their turn, obeying the distance ordinance, “I saw people be civilized, calm, nice and considerate.

“Once people were in, they got their ‘FEW’ Items and were out,” he said. “This gives me hope in the world that people do care about strangers. I salute my Italian brothers and sisters. It’s a privilege to be on lockdown with you.”

Harris says his plans were to come home to Missouri when the team’s season is over. If the championship and football season are cancelled, Harris will be back in the states before July. His plans may change and first take him to Texas to be with his brother.

He has a message for Branson.

“Let’s respect the ordinances,” he said. “I love you all and miss you all, and thank you all for the community you were to me my time there. I am always cheering for you all and want the best for you.”

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