ROME – Italian Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti has shown slight improvement in his fight against COVID-19 despite taking a turn for the worse earlier this week, and, while his condition remains serious, he has been moved out of an intensive care unit.

According to a Nov. 13 statement from the Saint Mary of Mercy hospital in Perugia where he is receiving treatment, Bassetti’s general clinical status is “slightly improving.”

His “respiratory and cardiocirculatory parameters” are stable, and, according to Italian news agency SIR, the official news outlet of the Italian bishops, he has now been moved out of the ICU and back into the urgent care wing where he stayed when he was first admitted Oct. 31.

Despite the small improvement, the hospital said his treatment plan is “unchanged,” and he is receiving “continuous oxygen therapy.”

In late October, Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia and president of the Italian bishops’ conference, tested positive for the coronavirus and was admitted to Saint Mary of Merc, where he was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia and resulting respiratory failure related to COVID-19.

On Nov. 3 he was transferred to the ICU, where earlier this week, on Nov. 10, he suffered an “overall worsening” of his condition.

His improvement was met with relief from his auxiliary bishop in Perugia, Marco Salvi, who also has COVID-19, but is asymptomatic.

In a Nov. 13 statement, Salvi said he received the news that Bassetti is leaving the ICU “with satisfaction,” calling it a “comforting” update.

However, Salvi noted that while Basseti’s condition has improved, “his clinical framework remains serious and the cardinal needs constant monitoring and appropriate care.”

“For this reason, it is necessary to continue incessantly praying for our pastor, for all those who are sick and for the healthcare workers who care for them. To these go our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for what they do every day to alleviate the suffering of so many patients.”

On Tuesday, after receiving news that Basseti’s condition at the time was worse, Pope Francis made a personal call to Salvi to get an update on Basseti’s health, and to assure of his prayers.

Concern is growing in Italy that a second national lockdown is inevitable as coronavirus numbers continue to grow. On Friday, the regions of Campania and Tuscany were added to Italy’s growing list of ‘red zones’ as coronavirus cases in the country soar.

Regions have been divided into three zones: red for the highest risk, then orange and yellow, with restrictions increasing in severity the closer to red the regions are. Other regions currently dubbed ‘red zones’ are Lombardy, Bolzano, Piedmont and Aosta Valley, and Calabria.

As of Friday, Italy registered 40,902 new infections – its highest-ever daily total – and 550 new deaths. The country now has had over one million total cases of COVID-19 and more than 44,000 total deaths since the outbreak began last spring.

Bassetti, a trusted Francis-appointee, is one of several cardinals to be diagnosed with the coronavirus since it first broke out last year.

Others include Italian Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar of Rome, who has recovered; Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), who has recovered; and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who was asymptomatic.

Like Salvi, Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan has also tested positive but is asymptomatic and is currently in quarantine.

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