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Media mogul and professional soccer team owner Rocco Commisso has spearheaded the largest American fundraising campaign to benefit the dire health crisis in Italy, a nation grappling with the highest number of new coronavirus-related deaths worldwide.
Commisso, who was born in Italy but later moved to the United States, is the chairman and CEO of Mediacom Communications and the owner of Italian soccer club ACF Fiorentina. But as the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has overtaken his home country, Commisso’s focus, with the help of his team, has shifted to raising money for Italy’s hospitals.
Commisso and ACF Fiorentina have created the "Forza e Cuore" – or “Force and Heart” when translated – GoFundMe campaign that has so far raised more than 753,000 euros, or roughly $812,000, to benefit hospital associations around Florence.
“Unfortunately, we’re the most-hit country in the world,” he told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Friday. He added: “It’s a prelude of what may happen in America.”
Italy has the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths out of any country worldwide, with at least 13,915 as of Friday morning, according to data from John Hopkins University and Medicine.
At least 115,242 people have tested positive for the virus in Italy, the third-highest number of cases behind Spain, with at least 117,710 people, and the U.S., with at least 245,573, data shows.
“Really, it’s been a disaster that, I just think about it, 60 doctors besides other frontline people have already died as a result of catching the virus and dying from that,” he continued, speaking about Italy. “Not just the economy but the whole medical system is in a mess, too.”
Italy has extended a strict nationwide lockdown, including banning professional athletes from training inside sports facilities, until April 13. Authorities have also cautioned that any return to normal movement will be a slow process.
And despite being some of the best in the world, Europe’s hospitals are struggling to handle the unprecedented crisis.
Within days, the fundraising campaign surpassed its goal of 500,000 euros, and the number is continuing to climb.
“It has become the largest fundraiser from the U.S. to Italy related to coronavirus," he said. The money will go toward "whatever they need, that they can’t otherwise get through the public system...anything that they need to support systems in and around the city of Florence.”
The fundraiser can also be accessed through ACF Fiorentina's official website, Viola Channel.
"Thanks to donations from the Viola family and their friends, we expect that essential medical supplies and equipment such as masks and surgical clothing, hand sanitizers, infrared laser thermometers, virus test kits, can be ordered and delivered to hospitals soon," the GoFundMe page states, "so that health workers can more effectively deal with the emergency of our beloved Florence and its citizens."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.