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AP PHOTOS: In Italy's Formula 1 city Monza, ambulances race

This Italian city north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. But in 2020, ambulances have been doing most of the racing in Monza.

Over two days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 added 1,859 new cases, second only to neighboring Milan in Italy's virus epicenter of Lombardy.

Ambulance duty is essentially COVID-19 duty: 70% of all calls are for people with the virus. Many are quarantined at home after testing positive, and the ambulance calls go out as their condition deteriorates overnight, requiring hospitalization.

Medical volunteer Beatrice Ammattatiello, right and medical staffer Paolo Pozzoli carry a suspected Covid patient out of an apartment building during their shift with the emergency White Cross ambulance, in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Paramedics wear protective gear to go into houses, and after each call out have to disinfect the ambulance, equipment and their clothes, all night long.

Some calls are false alarms: One man who had already recovered from COVID-19 called in a panic, convinced he had sickened again. The ambulance drove him to a center to be tested and he was negative.

“We are always active. Obviously in this moment we have more calls — listen, there is a call coming in right now,’’ said Cristina Valtorta, president of the White Cross section in the town of Biasonne.

Medical staffer Elisa Bonalumi sanitizes her colleague Ruggero Gariboldi after treating a suspected Covid patient inside the ambulance during their shift with the emergency White Cross in Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Between calls, staff sleep in a room with three well-spaced cots.

The White Cross has just a handful of full-time employees, assisted by some 120 volunteers who take over night and weekend duty. The service was founded by a priest, Luigi Bignami. “Our motto is: Love your neighbor as yourself,” Valtorta said.

The situation in Monza has grown so critical this fall that the mayor made a desperate public plea for the army to help.

Medical volunteer Beatrice Ammattatiello, left, and medical staffer Paolo Pozzoli carrie a suspected Covid patient out of a building during their shift with the emergency White Cross ambulance, in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

This week, 20 army doctors and nurses are set to arrive, allowing another 40 hospital beds to be set up at the main San Gerardo Hospital. Other hospitals in the region also have answered officials’ calls for help, receiving patient transfers, which has eased the pressure on the city's two main hospitals that are now treating some 400 people — down from over 500 a week ago.

Colleen Barry contributed to this report from Milan.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Medical volunteer Beatrice Ammattatiello, right, and medical staffer Andrea Arosio take a moment of relax after carrying a suspected Covid patient to the Bassini hospital during their shift with the emergency White Cross ambulance, in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffers Elisa Bonalumi and Massimo Villa work into the ambulance carrying a suspected Covid patient during their shift with the emergency White Cross in Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Ruggero Gariboldi removes his suit after treating a suspected Covid patient inside the ambulance during his shift with the emergency White Cross in Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Paolo Pozzoli looks into the camera with cloudy goggles during his shift at the Biassono White Cross ambulance emergency headquarter, Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Andrea Arosio waits for a suspected Covid patient outside a building during his shift with the emergency White Cross ambulance, in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Ruggero Gariboldi looks on through his cloudy goggles after carrying a suspected Covid patient at the Bassini hospital during a shift with the emergency White Cross in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical volunteer Beatrice Ammattatiello, sanitizes the ambulance after carrying a suspected Covid patient to the Bassini hospital during their shift with the emergency White Cross, in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Ruggero Gariboldi, right, treats a suspected Covid patient inside inside the ambulance during a shift with the emergency White Cross in Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Ruggero Gariboldi measures oxygen level in the blood of a suspected Covid patient inside the ambulance during his shift with the emergency White Cross in Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

From left, medical volunteer Beatrice Ammattatiello, medical staffers Paolo Pozzoli and Andrea Arosio, right, carry a suspected Covid patient in the hall of an apartment building during their shift with the emergency White Cross ambulance, in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical volunteer Beatrice Ammattatiello, and medical staffer Andrea Arose rush the ambulance to the hospital with a suspected Covid patient during their shift with the emergency White Cross, in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Ruggero Gariboldi talks with a suspected Covid patient inside the Bassini hospital during a shift with the emergency White Cross in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region.(AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Massimo Villa walks as a patient is carried on the stairs of her house during a shift with the emergency White Cross in Cinisello Balsamo, near Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy’s new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)

Medical staffer Elisa Bonalumi sanitizes her colleague Ruggero Gariboldi after treating a suspected Covid patient inside the ambulance during their shift with the emergency White Cross in Monza, Italy, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The city of Monza north of Milan is best known for its Formula 1 racetrack. In 2020, it has been the ambulance service that has been doing most of the racing. Over three days that an Associated Press photographer traveled on night calls with an ambulance service, the Monza-Brianza province of some 875,000 bordering Milan added 2,500 new cases, part of Italy's new epicenter in the Lombardy region. (AP PhotoLuca Bruno)