Milan Dispatch: Catching COVID-19 (Maybe). Twice. - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Milan Dispatch: Catching COVID-19 (Maybe). Twice.

Milan Dispatch: Catching COVID-19 (Maybe). Twice.

By Eugene S. Robinson



An ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.

By Eugene S. Robinson

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?

Manuel Veniani
Milan, Italy

Long before the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 was taking up TV time and Italy — the entire country — was quarantined, Veniani, a 40-year-old mastering engineer, knew something was wrong.

It started for me in October. Not like they said. First I was feeling weak all day. I’m pretty active, so I noticed. I thought I had bronchitis, because I’m a smoker, and so I started taking Flumil. But I was producing lots of mucus and it was very easy to vomit. No fever though, and while at first I didn’t want to eat, eventually I was hungry — even if the idea that I might vomit made this less than desirable.

It felt like … light pneumonia. And the coughing didn’t stop. This goes on for 20 days. I’ve had the flu before. This made the flu seem like a joke. By the end of October, I was feeling better.

While drunk driving laws are very strict here, the police can’t stop you for field sobriety tests since no one wants you blowing the virus around.

In November, it hit again. Not as severe but this run also lasted about 20 days, and based on what I later discovered, this was the weaker S-strain. The other was the more deadly L-strain, which I hear 70 percent of the people have and which develops into something painfully pneumonia-like.

And hospitals? Refusing to see anyone my age. So their advice was to stop smoking, which I did for a while. I didn’t like my chest feeling like it was on fire anyway. And they told me to stay home.


I’m a mastering engineer. I tour-manage bands — Cherubs, Distorted Pony and Brainbombs, among others — and I picked it up from a healthy, 18-year-old who didn’t smoke and who was hit with it for 40 days. But I make my money in studios with bands or on the road.

Now with the whole country is on lockdown. I can’t go out from my region or even my town. But I have to pay the bills. The government and the media are driving this without thinking of us though, and if you don’t have a formal salary, you are fucked. There are no concerts, no cinema.

In an interesting turn, while you can drink, and while drunk driving laws are very strict here, the police can’t stop you for field sobriety tests since no one wants you blowing the virus around. People are going out anyway. Which I understand, but it’s crazy.

The only way to stop this though is to close everything.

I mean, from what I hear we have over 500,000 cases in Italy alone. I have no proof, but we’ve been dealing with this since October. So it’s probably gone through millions. Two friends of mine lost their grandmothers along the same timeline, both to “pneumonia.” And not just old people. There was a 38-year-old guy in Codogné, north of here, who in January did a marathon. He got super sick. He goes to the hospital twice. The first time they sent him away. The second time he was much worse so they kept him. But how many people did he infect between those times?

I can do some work from home. I can master records, book tours, arrange shows and stage equipment from my computer at home. But I’m afraid this is going to be endless. Funny thing is: I’m probably immune now. Like most of the people I know. But my mom is 70, so I must be careful. Even if I think it is tough to get it a third time. So now I wash my hands a lot and just go out for necessary things.

With the death toll in Italy now north of 800 people, and more than 12,000 confirmed cases, Veniani and the rest of Italy, approximately 60 million people, are locked down until April 3.

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