Former Missouri football star Brock Olivo paints an eerie picture of what the coronavirus looks like in one of the countries most afflicted by the pandemic.
Olivo, who for two weeks has been quarantined in Italy after recently moving there, has loved ones there, including his girlfriend and 10-year-old daughter, and they are all healthy. Yet the country is on lockdown to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Italy has suffered the most coronavirus-related deaths of any nation in the world (8,165 as of Thursday morning), nearly doubling Spain, the country with the second-most. Italy is second to China in total cases but is expected to surpass China within days.
Only San Marino, a tiny sovereign nation which Italy completely surrounds, has more deaths per its population than the country where Olivo currently resides.
The 43-year-old Olivo has been in Italy since Feb. 14, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Four days later, the country’s first case of the virus was confirmed. Despite the growing pandemic, Olivo said he is healthy and has not required testing.
Olivo described what he’s seen in recent weeks as "unreal."
"Little by little, the Italian government has been putting restrictions on social movement and now they are to the point where the entire country is under quarantine," Olivo said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "The only retail that is open are pharmacies and grocery stores, but they are open with only limited hours. You can leave the house only for an emergency or to go grocery shopping, and only one person per household can go grocery shopping and it’s limited to once a week. You can walk your dog, but you have to have a written permit on you at all times."
"The government is considering passing a bill that will allow authorities to slap you a ticket for 4,000 Euros ($4,415) if you don’t have a legitimate written permit on you," he continued, "because they have been way too lenient and there hasn’t been enough enforcement and people just take advantage of it."
Olivo said Italians are social and desire to be outdoors, making this period even more difficult. The restrictions may be in place until the end of July, he added.
Olivo is a Hermann native and graduated from Missouri as the program’s all-time leading rusher in 1997 with 3,026 yards. He’s third on that list now, with Brad Smith and Zack Abron passing him after the turn of the millennium.
Olivo was most recently an assistant special teams coach for the Chicago Bears, but he was not retained at the end of the 2019 season by Bears head coach Matt Nagy.
Olivo previously coached alongside former Missouri assistant coach Dave Toub with the Kansas City Chiefs as an assistant special teams coach from 2014-16. Olivo also spent a season as the Denver Broncos’ special teams coordinator in 2017.
After graduating from MU, Olivo spent four seasons with the Detroit Lions as one of their top special teams players and a backup running back and fullback.
Olivo recently joined the coaching staff of the Lazio Ducks, an American football team in Rome, the capital of Italy. The Ducks play in the country’s highest classification of the sport. He serves as the special teams and secondary coach.
Olivo told the Chicago Tribune over the phone that he doesn’t regret staying in Italy after the virus began spreading.
"I am going to be honest, no. My daughter is here, my girlfriend is here and I want to coach football and stay active in the game," Olivo said. "My only chance this year was here. I had exhausted all my opportunities in the States and I was going to kill two birds with one stone: be closer to my daughter and stay in the game of football that I love.
"I really do not have any regrets at all. Being over here where it exploded so quickly, you understood the path of the thing. ... I will stay here where I am close to loved ones and wait it out and see what happens."