By Thursday, reporters began to have that look in their eyes. The one that speaks less to fatigue and more to utter exhaustion, as the stress of the times began to fill their already-bloodshot eyes. I’ve seen it before during hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters; except now it’s as if a catastrophic storm is hitting us every single day.
Despite it all, we remain in good spirits, laughing and in love with our work, serious about our duty and dedicated to informing the public. It was just a matter of time before those smiles belied something currently residing in all of us: concern.
Regardless of our years of experience, COVID-19’s impact on our way of life is something we’ve never seen before. And I’m sure you, our readers, feel the same way. Granted, there have been horrific scenes and tragedies that left voids within us all, not to mention the national emergencies that put everyone on high alert and reminded us of our vulnerability. But this is different.
Schools closing, businesses shuttering, people losing their jobs, and long-held events nearly as old as some of our cities being forced to cancel — this is our new, albeit temporary, reality. Sports and movie theaters — which at the very least always served as distractions during times of adversity since the Great Depression — are gone, too. And now people who put their faith in religion no longer have a public place of worship to congregate and rest their worries.
What we are left with is each other, and our ability to persevere.
It was just after 6 a.m. one day when I awoke to these thoughts, myself barely functional after a week of work with no rest. I later sat at our dining room table with what seemed like a million things on my mind, every waking moment occupied by work. The tens of thousands of words I’m responsible for on a daily basis floated around my head like some bad trip. Even my prayers that morning made little sense, as my increasingly restless, terribly overburdened mind was so stressed that it felt as though my thoughts carried physical weight to them, hanging my head lower and lower.
So there I sat, only able to muster a single coherent thought: I don’t know how much longer I can do this. The words, days, hours and minutes are beginning to blur together, with only our publication dates helping to remind me which day it is.
The coronavirus has affected us all in different ways; this is simply how it’s affecting me. There are reporters and photographers in the newsroom who haven’t had much sleep, working until all hours to document the efforts to stop the spread of the virus in our communities. They’re never far from a computer, except to eat and use the bathroom, and are on call nearly 24 hours a day, each one committed to work through the exhaustion and monitor any developments.
Understanding that the job is bigger than any one of us, we have all rotated shifts to ensure that everyone responsible for breaking news has the rest they need to be effective in their reporting. Through supporting one another, we’re getting the job done.
Then there are those who are truly on the frontlines of this pandemic. The nurses and doctors. People in the service industry. The elderly. People who stand to lose their jobs or their lives; people who are afraid in a way Americans haven’t been afraid in 20 years. Those people also deserve our support. So order some food to-go from a local restaurant. Give your grandparents a call. Stop hoarding face masks.
In the meantime, we should recognize the work of our medical community, because no matter how exhausted some of us may be during this time, it’s the nurses, physicians and medical health professionals who are bearing the greatest responsibility. And while one can’t imagine their burden, it’s also something they shouldn’t bear alone.
You can help by practicing the precautions asked of each of us. Refrain from going out. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Call ahead before visiting a hospital, emergency room or doctor’s office to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.
Now that there are seven cases confirmed in the Rio Grande Valley, it’s never been more important to adhere to these steps. As we understand it, this virus is more dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Remember them when considering how we live our lives during this time.
Take a cue from my newsroom and understand that if we all do our part and support each other, and keep the faith, we’ll get through this together.
Michael Rodriguez is the deputy editor for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4439 or by email at email@example.com.