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With His Background In Question, Public Criticism Mounts Against Quarantined Man

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Peter Italia said he doesn't feel free to leave his "voluntary" quarantine at an undisclosed location.

Peter Italia, the Rutland man in quarantine after returning from West Africa, has a strange backstory. And the public discourse around this story  is full of questions and, in some cases, intense hostility. The criticism has become so intense that Italia said he doesn’t feel free to leave his “voluntary” quarantine at an undisclosed location.

“That’s just going to give people ammunition to assault me even more, so I’m not going to do that – even though I could, and probably should,” Italia said in an interview Friday.

The public backlash playing out across social media and in comments sections on news stories online has turned harsh. One called Italia a “run-of-the-mill crackpot” who “well deserves every bit of scorn that can be heaped upon him.” 

Others online also say Italia has mental health issues and should be cared for, not vilified.

News reports and social media users have also linked Italia to an individual who allegedly said he took a trip to West Africa with the intent of catching Ebola and bringing it back to the United States. There was no such post on Italia’s Facebook Thursday; both Italia and state officials who have worked with him say his intentions were good.
 
Joanne Calvi, a state Department of Health worker told VTDigger that Italia is an “ally” to public health work.

"That's just going to give people ammunition to assault me even more." - Peter Italia on why he won't leave voluntary quarantine

“He really is a very caring person. He was there just trying to understand what was happening,” she said in the VTDigger interview.

Italia himself posted on Facebook about the trip saying that he “only wanted to help everyone involved.”

Friday morning, Italia -- who is feeling healthy and said he has no symptoms of Ebola -- discovered that his Facebook account has been shut down and he no longer has access to it. He says Facebook requested that he send a color photo of a government-issued ID to verify his identity. This is a process some users report having to complete if their profiles have been reported for potential misrepresentation. Facebook says it uses the process to enforce its “real names” policy.

As Italia waits for his ID to be verified, it’s clear he feels persecuted by the public.

“It wasn’t me [who deactivated the Facebook profile], and I’m upset about it,” he said. “People are doing things because they’re upset that I stood up against the CDC and the WHO and the government and everything else, so they’re retaliating. Somebody’s retaliating.”

Italia's stated good intentions have been clouded by a number of questions about his history and his writings in the past, which include a book that claims to document true stories of how techniques such as time travel have been helpful in medical care.

In an interview with VPR on Thursday, Italia said he’s previously worked at four hospitals in three states:

  • Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach, FL
  • University of Miami Hospital, Miami, FL
  • Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine), Philadelphia, PA
  • University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now part of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences), New Jersey

In calls to the medical license authorities in each of those states, only Pennsylvania had records of a “Peter Italia.” According to the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine, Italia was issued a Graduate Medical Training License on Dec. 22, 1992. That license expired June 1, 1993 in good standing with no disciplinary action taken against Italia.
Neither Florida nor New Jersey’s licensing authorities had records of a Peter Italia having been licensed in their states. Italia says the Florida records don't exist because that state's information only goes back five years. The state's online license database, however, contains information dating back more than five years. Italia said New Jersey's board doesn't have his records because they don't issue training licenses to residents in their first year, which he claims he was.

"I only wanted to help everyone involved." - Peter Italia on Facebook

Record keepers at the former Medical College of Pennsylvania declined to search their records without a signed release from Italia, and none of the other hospitals have responded to requests for comment.

Documents he submitted to the Vermont Board of Medicine show he completed medical school in the Dominican Republic, at a school no longer recognized by the state.

Questions remain about his medical experience, and Italia says he has documents that verify his claims, but he left them with a friend before going to Africa and cannot leave his quarantine to access them.

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