It’s not often that a diagnosis of appendicitis comes as a relief, but as John Vecchiarello, a tile and marble specialist in his mid-40s, lay in a hospital bed not far from his home in Orange County, New York, he figured he’d dodged a bullet. It was mid-March. Covid-19 had ravaged eastern China and was sweeping across Italy. Just days before, the suburb of New Rochelle, an hour’s drive away, had been designated the United States’ first “containment zone.”
Vecchiarello figured he was lucky. Better a ruptured appendix than a mysterious plague.
He was still at the hospital recovering from surgery when his 15-year-old son woke up with a 102-degree fever, achiness, a scratchy cough, and difficulty breathing. The pediatrician ordered a test for the coronavirus, and a few days later, it came back positive.
In the days since, the teenager has been quarantined in his bedroom. Meals are left at his door. One of his brothers isn’t feeling well, either, but the greater worry is the boys’ 70-year-old grandmother, who lives with them and suffers from an underlying medical condition. Since any member of the family could be carrying the disease, they’re practicing social distancing at home. Bathrooms are cleaned after each use. Everyone wears N-95 masks, originally purchased for construction work, when they have to come face-to-face. The whole gang’s on lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Vecchiarello family is preparing to sue the Chinese government.
On March 13, the Berman Law Group, a firm based in Boca Raton, Florida, filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against the People’s Republic of China, along with several government ministries and other authorities, for its mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis. As the complaint alleges, the defendants, “acting from their own economic self-interest … failed to report the outbreak as quickly as they could have; underreported cases; and failed to contain the outbreak despite knowing the seriousness of the situation.”