Jacksonville woman stuck in Italy says visa is nearing expiration

A Jacksonville woman says she’s stranded in Italy with no way of returning home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The city is on lockdown," said Ruth Itani. “You can’t go out. You’ve got police going up and down the street all day telling you to stay inside."

Itani said she went to Rovereto in January to visit her husband. At the beginning of March, she started to look up flights to get home, but since then, flights keep changing or cancelling, and she said her visa is close to expiring.

Her visa is scheduled to expire on April 16.

“I’ve contacted the U.S. Embassy. They tell me there is nothing they can do,” Itani said. "I can’t go anywhere. I can’t go outside, so I don’t know what to do.”

RELATED: ‘We are collapsing’: Virus pummels medics in Spain and Italy

She says the US Embassy has referred her to the airlines, but the airlines haven’t been reliable.

“There’s no flights, and the flights that they do have is $3,000,” Itani said. “It’s rough because you don’t know what to do."

News4Jax has provided Itani with the contact information for Congressman Al Lawson’s office to ensure she completes all the appropriate steps needed to get home.

The country’s hospitals are groaning under the weight of the pandemic: Video and photos from two hospitals in the Spanish capital showed patients, many hooked up to oxygen tanks, crowding corridors and emergency rooms. At the 12 de Octubre University Hospital, patients could be seen on the floor as they waited for a bed in recent days. The hospital says the patients have since been accommodated elsewhere.

On Wednesday, the number of medical personnel infected was nearly 6,500 nationally, health authorities said, representing 13.6% of the country's 47,600 total cases and about 1% of the health system's workforce. At least three health care workers have died.

“We are collapsing. We need more workers,” said Lidia Perera, a nurse who works with Núñez at Madrid’s Hospital de la Paz, which has 1,000 beds.

This week, 11 of the hospital’s 14 floors are devoted to caring for those suffering from COVID-19, and there is still not enough room: The patients with less serious cases of the disease are being put in the hospital’s gym or in a large tent outside.

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