Vo is a small town in Veneto, northern Italy, in which the first European victim of COVID-19 was documented. It was the first area in Italy to be declared a "red zone," and after the discovery of that first COVID-19 case in February 2020, no one was allowed in or out. Luckily for residents of Vo, they had a microbiology professor locked down with them. Andrea Crisanti, a professor at the University of Padua, offered to test all 3,100 citizens early in the outbreak, and 95% of the town agreed to the experiment. One hundred citizens were found to have COVID-19 and were kept in strict isolation. The lockdown was successful in slowing the spread of the virus, and this method would later be used elsewhere in the world. The citizens also underwent testing for the presence of antibodies in May 2020, then again six months later to follow up on immunity from the coronavirus.
Photographer Matteo de Mayda photographed the town as it went from a red zone to an experiment for quarantining COVID patients to one of the healthiest places in Italy. "This information is important to understand how long immunization lasts and also regarding the vaccine development," de Mayda said.
"In the future, Crisanti’s work could help save thousands of lives at a global level," de Mayda said. The information gleaned from the testing and lockdown would not have been possible without the cooperation of the citizens, who also agreed to provide personal data and other sensitive information for the sake of the research.
De Mayda began photographing in April 2020, capturing a deserted town that was just starting to emerge from a monthslong lockdown. He photographed the town's healing process, from the early tests to volunteer efforts to Vo's citizen's being retested for antibodies as well as the residents who were still struggling with the long-term effects of the virus.
He hopes to keep up with the residents, and Crisanti's work, as vaccines continue to roll out and Vo's citizens attempt to resume their lives.