Stubbornness and selfishness are not two traits Americans need to display, and one journalist from Italy explains why we need to change our behavior.

Mattia Ferraresi is an Italian journalist who writes for Il Foglio, an Italian newspaper. He recently penned an op-ed for The Boston Globe, warning other countries not to follow in the footsteps of his patriots, where Italians were “too selfish to follow suggestions to change our behavior.”

Ferraresi said because of this, the country’s health system is on the verge of collapse, as they didn’t take the warning signs of the coronavirus seriously, as reported by Daily Wire.

“An anesthesiologist at a hospital in Bergamo, one of the cities with the most cases of the coronavirus, told [Il Corriere della Sera] that the intensive care unit was already at capacity, and doctors were being forced to start making difficult triage decisions, admitting people who desperately need mechanical ventilation based on age, life expectancy, and other factors. Just like in wartime. The article was inexplicably placed on page 15, while the main headline on the newspaper’s front page relayed the political quarrels over the measures to curb the contagion,” Ferraresi wrote.

“We, of course, couldn’t stop the emergence of a previously unknown and deadly virus. But we could have mitigated the situation we are now in, in which people who could have been saved are dying. I, and too many others, could have taken a simple yet morally loaded action: We could have stayed home,” he said.

What has happened in Italy shows that less-than-urgent appeals to the public by the government to slightly change habits regarding social interactions aren’t enough when the terrible outcomes they are designed to prevent are not yet apparent; when they become evident, it’s generally too late to act. “I and many other Italians just didn’t see the need to change our routines for a threat we could not see,” he said.

With Italy 10 days ahead of Spain, France, and Germany in the progression of the coronavirus pandemic, and also 10-16 days ahead of the UK and the United States, Ferraresi said other countries, such as the United States were able to learn from the experience of others. “That means those countries have the opportunity to take measures that today may look excessive and disproportionate, yet from the future, where I am now, are perfectly rational in order to avoid a health care system collapse,” he wrote.

“The way to avoid or mitigate all this in the United States and elsewhere is to do something similar to what Italy, Denmark, and Finland are doing now, but without wasting the few, messy weeks in which we thought a few local lockdowns, canceling public gatherings, and warmly encouraging working from home would be enough stop the spread of the virus. We now know that wasn’t nearly enough,” he added.

With intensive care units working at maximum capacity, doctors are having to make very difficult decisions regarding who they should prioritize for treatment, creating ethical dilemmas for them, with the elderly and health compromised often having to be left out. Doctors have been seen weeping in hallways because of life and death decisions they are forced to make, and many people are dying in their homes, unable to access hospital treatment.

“America needs to learn from the heartbreaking events happening in Italy, and quickly make the changes necessary to keep people safe. It is not too late to take measures that may seem excessive, but in the long run, most people will be thankful for it. Life is precious,” Ferraresi  said. 

The United States has some 45,000 ICU beds, and even in a moderate outbreak scenario, some 200,000 Americans will need intensive care.