Newsweek reached out to the Vatican for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Berardelli was one of more than 6,000 Italians who are now confirmed to have died from the virus. The country has experienced the most COVID-19 deaths of anywhere in the world, recently surpassing and now nearly doubling the total in China, despite having about 17,000 fewer cases as of Monday.
At least six priests including Berardelli reportedly died of the virus over the course of one week in the northern Italian province of Bergamo, with at least 14 more hospitalized. The province is one of many that have been hit hard during the pandemic, stretching hospitals past their capacity and causing essential medical equipment like ventilators to be in short supply.
“The massive arrival of patients becomes impossible to manage,” Mirco Nacoti, a doctor at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, told The Washington Post. “The health system is totally destroyed. Nobody has seen a similar situation. It’s a catastrophe.”
Although it’s not clear who ended up using the ventilator that was originally allocated to Berardelli, the act could have saved the younger patient’s life. Those suffering from severe forms COVID-19 are typically struck with pneumonia which makes it difficult or impossible to breathe without the mechanical assistance the equipment provides.
Shortages of ventilators have become apparent around the world as the virus continues to spread. In the United States, confirmed cases topped 46,000 on Monday, with the number of new cases growing dramatically each day. Experts worry that the health care system will soon be overwhelmed, and the country’s limited number of ventilators could pose serious problems.
“If you don’t have enough ventilators… people who need it will not be able to get it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on March 15. “My colleagues in Italy… they’re making very tough decisions. Hopefully we never get to that point. They are there, it’s terrible, you don’t want to be in a position to have to make those choices.”
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