Coronavirus: Vineland, New Jersey couple headed to Italy as chaplains for sick

VINELAND, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Italy has now overtaken China as the country with the most COVID-19 deaths, more than 3400, and China's population is 20 times bigger.

You could say that a desolate Italy is the most medically dangerous country in the world right now.

So it's more than notable that a retired Vineland, New Jersey police officer and his wife are flying toward that danger to help with the COVID-19 response.

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Their bags are packed with the necessities. They're ready for a deployment like no other. Jason Scalzi is a police and Iraqi War veteran, turned minister. Alongside him, his wife of 20 years, Damaris.

The Newfield, New Jersey couple has volunteered to fly into the heart of the coronavirus epidemic, to Cremona, Italy. The Scalzi's will be serving as chaplains at the bedside of the sick in a makeshift hospital.

"The medical place that we're going to has got 58 beds. We're there to serve the medical personnel there as well as the patients," says Damaris Scalzi.

As part of the Billy Graham rapid response team and Samaritan's Purse, the Scalzi's are boarding a private flight packed with volunteers and supplies. The mission is to also counsel the doctors and nurses overwhelmed by spreading coronavirus.

"When somebody passes away on your watch it does hurt. It does do a lot of damage. But just coming alongside of them and saying, 'You did the best that you can,' there's some answers you just won't know on this side of heaven," said Jason Scalzi.

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The couple has children and a granddaughter. After spending 30 days serving the sick, the plan is to return to 14 days of isolation in the United States.
"It sounds long but it is a short time for us to help. Especially when we've got medical people in all countries right now fighting this 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Damaris.

As for fear of contracting COVID-19, "That's where your faith has to come in. If you feel called to help someone- to help the sick- you can't shrink away," said Damaris.

The Scalzis answered the call for volunteers this week.

Damaris says just one month ago the couple was discussing their next response trip, little did they know it would come so soon.
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