The Man at the Center of the COVID Storm

The man who spent the last 15 months in the eye of the island’s COVID-19 hurricane finds comfort in the grinding, distorted guitar chords, dense bass and drums and guttural screams of metal bands.

by: Dean Geddes

photography by: Dean Geddes

To celebrate the pandemic drawing to an end, health director Roberto Santamaria bought tickets to see a band called Rammstein at Gillette Stadium in September. Rammstein is a German heavy-metal band, known for, among other things, its over-the-top use of pyrotechnics. Nearly all the lyrics are in German.

Santamaria also has tickets for Apocalyptica, a heavy-metal cello band from Finland. He is hoping to score Slipknot tickets as well.

Roberto Santamaria

“Some of the heavy-metal purists out there might argue that Slipknot isn’t (true) metal, it’s ‘nu metal’,” Santamaria said. “But for me it’s all metal and it’s my outlet.”

The fact that the town’s health director is now willing to go and bang heads with thousands of other metal fans in Gillette Stadium goes to show how much faith he has in the coronavirus vaccine, he said. And how much has changed in recent months.

Santamaria has spent the last year in an all-consuming public-health effort. He also tried his best to take his mind off of the pandemic when he came home from work. To break the tension he would wake up, head down into his basement and slam his fists into a punching bag.

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