'It’s like a ghost town': Minnesota native living in northern Italy describes life during coronavirus outbreak

Retired Navy Master living in northern Italy says people in his native Minnesota should be cautious so as not to end up like Italy.

Italy has tightened up “lockdown” restrictions as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. According to the World Health Organization more than 69,000 people in the country have tested positive for the virus. Nearly 7,000 people have died because of the virus.

“Today is our fifteenth day where we’re under these tight restrictions but we’ve been under some type of travel restriction and other restrictions since the end of February when that finally broke,” Anoka, Minnesota native and retired Navy Master Mike Haas said.

Two years ago, he his wife and two kids moved near a U.S. Air Force base in Aviano, Italy. It’s a town in northern Italy. Haas says it’s about a 45 minute drive north of Venice. Both he and his wife work for schools on the base.

He says life in Italy has changed greatly since COVID-19 started rapidly spreading across the country.

”You kind of feel like you’re on a different planet,” Haas said.

This week new restrictions were put in place in northern Italy, one of the hardest hit places in the country. The new restrictions prevent people from leaving the immediate area around their house to go for walks or bike rides.

“We can only leave home to buy groceries or go to a medical appointment. Otherwise we can’t leave our yard,” Haas said.

He says even when he does leave home for those reasons, he is required to carry documentation like his visa and passport and there can only be one person in a vehicle at a time.

“If you don’t have that paperwork with you and you’re stopped you can be fined up to 3,000 euros or some kind of jail sentence,” Haas said.

Even though life has become much more restrictive, Haas says it’s worth it when he sees the devastation coronavirus is causing in Italy.

“I guess it feels weird, but I guess then when you see the death toll and see everything that’s piling up I guess you understand why it’s needed,” Haas said.

Haas’ mother and sister both still live in the Twin Cities. He’s been sharing his experiences in Italy on social media, in part, to show his American friends what could happen if they don’t start taking measures to protect themselves and their communities against COVID-19.

“When this hits the states I hope people take it, or are taking it, very seriously,” Haas said.

This story was reported from Minneapolis.