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One Year After Europe's First Confirmed COVID Case, This Town Has Completely Changed

Photographer Matteo de Mayda captured this Italian town as it went from being a red zone to one of the healthiest places in Italy.

Posted on February 21, 2021, at 5:34 p.m. ET

Matteo De Mayda

The tomb of Adriano Trevisan, 78, in Padua. He was the first certified European victim of COVID-19.

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.

Matteo De Mayda

Andrea Crisanti, virologist and professor of the University of Padua and father of the "Veneto model," conducted analysis on all the citizens of Vo.

Matteo De Mayda

Nasal swabs were used to test all 3,100 citizens of the town; such a thorough investigation of an entire population was unprecedented.

Matteo De Mayda

Elodia, a volunteer nurse at G. Negri Primary School, where all the inhabitants of Vo were tested

Matteo De Mayda

Parish Church of Vo during the lockdown in April, when no one was allowed to leave or enter the town

Matteo De Mayda

A supermarket in Vo in April 2020, during the lockdown

Matteo De Mayda

Left: A member of the Alpine Troops. Right: Alpine troops pack the masks that will be distributed to the inhabitants of Vo during the April lockdown.

Matteo De Mayda

Laura, 27, pharmacist in the Central Pharmacy of Dr. Giuliano Martini during the lockdown.

Matteo De Mayda

An ambulance on the streets of Vo

Matteo De Mayda

Federico Bagno, 36, Mirian Mapreso, 35, and their young children Marco and Jacopo were all positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic and remained in quarantine for 45 days. Today, they still feel side effects.

Matteo De Mayda

Jacopo, 4, and Marco, 10, at the G. Negri School in Vo, ready for the start of the new school year in August 2020

Matteo De Mayda

Marco's class playing outside their school in August 2020

Matteo de Mayda

In November 2020, doctors like Michele Nicoletti (right) administered a new test to the 160 citizens who had an antibody response to COVID-19 to check the antibodies' strength six months later. This information will important to understand how long immunization lasts and also regarding vaccine development.

Matteo De Mayda

Alice Soldà, 58, works in the emergency room of the Schiavonia hospital. She became the first health worker vaccinated in Schiavonia, near Vo, in December 2020.

Matteo De Mayda, Matteo De Mayda

Students from Marco's class at “Tutti a scuola,” the annual opening ceremony of each school year, held on Monday 14 September 2020 at the Guido Negri school in Vo.


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