A Nation Mourns: He Was Italy's Coronavirus Victim No. 10,000

As the toll passes 10,000, Italians try to look past the unthinkable numbers to remember each life lost, including a 34-year-old father from a town near Milan.

Last week, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Milan is silent.
Last week, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Milan is silent.
Monica Serra

MILAN — In just over a month, the death toll in Italy from the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 10,000, with the Civil Protection Authority putting the count Saturday at 10,023 by day's end.

The epicenter of the crisis has been the northern region of Lombardy, where nearly 6,000 people have died. Between Friday and Saturday, between the Lombard cities of Bergamo, Brescia and Milan, there were 542 new deaths. Most of those who have died in Italy have been elderly, many infected in hospitals and retirement homes. But there are also young victims of COVID-19, including a 34-year-old named Federico Castellin, whose death Friday turned out to be the 10,000th registered in Italy since the crisis began. Like those of all the other victims, his story should not be lost in the magnitude of the official numbers.

Federico succumb to the virus at Milan's Policlinico Hospital, after being transferred the night before from the city's Sacco hospital, where he'd been fighting for his life for nearly a week. A father of a one-year old and married to Anna, he had suffered some minor health problems that doctors said had left him more vulnerable to the disease. But in his native town of Cinisello, northeast of Milan, everyone knew him by his smile.

Today is like many other days over the past month.

A year and a half ago, he had opened Café Zen, in the town center, two years after the closure of his parents' café, and with the help of his father Paolo, behind the counter. The local tourism association is located next door to the coffee bar, and its president Paolo Tamborini, became fast friends with Federico. "He was always upbeat and generous with everybody," Tamborini said. "He was a serious person, someone you could trust. The last time I saw him was on March 9th when he had to close the café for the national lockdown. But Federico was fine, he had no symptoms."

Giacomo Ghilardi, the mayor of Cinisello, said this day was both similar and different than others in the town of 75,000 since the outbreak began. "This day has really left its mark," he said. "Today is like many other days over the past month, days where I find myself mourning our fellow citizens."

Mayor Ghilardi continued: We will remember everybody. All our loved ones, friends, family, acquaintances. Everyone we have lost and will lose because of the coronavirus. We will remember Federico, who was always kind, generous and selfless. Today is a difficult day. These are times of struggle, courage, suffering, work, pride. But soon, we will wipe away our tears, we will get up, we will smile again and we will remember. That I promise you."

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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