Their eyes look tired, their cheekbones are raw because of the protective masks and they don’t smile.
The doctors and nurses at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy are almost unrecognizable behind their masks, uniforms, gloves and hair nets: the flimsy armor that they put on at the start of each shift as the only barrier against contagion.
The Associated Press photographers dispersed on Friday to photograph them during their short breaks from the Intensive Care Units in the cities of Bergamo and Brescia, in the Lombardy region, and in Rome.
In each case, doctors, nurses, and paramedics posed in front of moss-green surgical drapes, the bland background of their sterile wards.
Friday was a bad day: Italy recorded the highest number of deaths since the coronavirus outbreak exploded in the country five weeks ago, adding 969 victims to increase the highest number of COVID-19 to 9,134. Lombardy registered 541 of them.
Italy also surpassed China in total confirmed cases and is only behind the United States. However, the National Institutes of Health also said there was a decrease in infections in recent days, indicating that the national quarantine began showing results after two and a half weeks.
For medical employees, any relief from the overwhelming chaos of the initial phase of the virus’s spread is welcome. But now they know they are nowhere near the end of the emergency.
“What we are experiencing is like a tattoo,” said Daniela Turno, an intensive care nurse at the Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital in Bergamo. “It will be indelible.”